Perhaps today, more than ever, we revolve ourselves around our own identity. Social media makes it easier, and more public than ever, to almost develop a “brand” for ourselves. We shoot messages and photographs through the air, building up an image for ourselves, trying to display that we are a person worth knowing, or even admiring. We want to believe and to display that we have worthy thoughts, worthy talents, worthy goals, worthy jobs, worthy parenting, worthy marriages, and the list goes on. It seems we are in a race to impress- though isn’t it true that flattery pleases for mere seconds? If we live for the praises of men we will return to the treadmill for praise in a rush- rarely satisfied, barely catching a breath.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
Even the Christian who makes a conscious effort to avoid the snare of living to impress others, will still form an identity for himself. That’s human. It’s inescapable. The way you dress tells a bit about you. What you spend money on speaks about you. Your job. Your fitness level. Your pass times- all of it. There will be some pieces you will value more than others. Things that feel like they are at the core of who you are. The things you would list if asked to write a paragraph about yourself- perhaps you would call them the essentials.
The sobering truth is that many of the things we find identity in are subject to change. Trends change and beauty fades. Jobs can be lost. Children get older. Even those things we relish as skills and hobbies are really only granted us by the hand of God, and if He chooses, He can take them away.
One of my greatest joys in life is to be active, especially to hike mountains. It is one of those pieces I would say was at my core. However, because of a physical condition I have had to face inability to be very active for the past two and a half years. In fact, I have had seasons when a simple task like grocery shopping caused enough pain to warrant rest. I’m moving forward- at an excruciatingly slow rate. I really, really, hope to hike again this summer.
That hasn’t been an easy pill to swallow when a huge part of my identity has been living an active life. But it isn’t the first time I’ve been made to struggle with things like this. Several years ago when my life seemed to be in turmoil I remember saying: “Why does God want to ruin my life?”
Praise God, I’ve come a long way since then. Some lessons take a long time and are not easily learned. One of those lessons I have learned, and will yet learn better, is that God doesn’t want to destroy my life- He wants to be my life.
He wants me to say “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).”
He wants me to be less concerned with pleasing self and impressing others, but that I would “make it (my) aim to please Him (2Corinthians 5:9).”
He wants me to rest in Him and with Paul say that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Philippians 4:11).”
Rattling these lessons off like that makes it sound like a cake walk. But it isn’t. When God reaches out and touches that treasured piece of your identity, it isn’t a cake walk. But it is necessary; It is loving.
Am I saying it’s wrong to use social media, have hobbies, follow trends, love motherhood, or pursue your dream career? Um. No. But with all the time we spend building our identity we should ask ourselves- who do I really want the world to see? What am I displaying as my supreme treasure? What are the things I feel would ruin me or cause an “identity crises” if I could no longer have them, do them?
Sadly, we often don’t pursue Jesus as our all in all until something we put our all into is taken from us. We so easily sing “Hallelujah, All I have is Christ. Hallelujah Jesus is my life,” yet in reality at the core of us there are so many things crowding Him out. Wherever you’re at let us pray that our hearts would be satisfied with knowing Jesus and content to simply please Him in whatever lot He gives us. May we be more concerned with displaying Him than with displaying us. When we seek our identity let us find it in Him and know that He is working all things out to conform us “to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).” May that be enough. Did you know that He can never be taken from us who believe? The more we lose our lives to find life in Him the less our identity can ever be shaken. Let us gladly go to that eternal wellspring of life.