Fill in the blank, “I am _________”
There are so many ways to end that sentence. You may have ended the sentence with your name. Or maybe an adjective. Or another noun. Or perhaps a role.
But it’s worth considering your recurring answers to that question. And what they mean. And where they come from.
What’s in a name?
This morning, I was reflecting on the following story from Genesis:
When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you.
I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.Gn 17:3
In this story, God gives Abram a new name, after Abram had passed a test, proving his faith.
This is not an isolated event; there are other stories in the Scriptures of God providing new names to his children:
- Saul -> Paul
- Peter -> Cephas
- Jacob -> Israel
While there are different reasons for the ‘renaming’ in different stories, an underlying truth is this: our true identity – our real name – is the one given to us by the Father, in Christ.
Who calls us, what?
None of us gets to choose our name. That decision is made for us by our parents.
And, for many of us, our identity continues to be derived from a variety of external sources for much of our lives. Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses…the various people in our web of relationships form impressions about who we are and communicate those impressions in a variety of ways. Because we are social creatures and relational beings, those impressions effect how they relate to us.
Over time, especially with repetition, we start to see ourselves in the way those people see us. These people know us, after all. So their impressions are likely true, right?
Many of us take those impressions for granted. They become our identity and influence the choices we make about what jobs to take, people to date, friends to keep, goals to pursue.
Identity is a foundational aspect of life.
The question is, are the impressions others have of us — or that we have of ourselves — really true?
It can be hard to distinguish psychological and emotional health or maturity from spiritual influence. Doing so takes skill, practice, and grace.
That it takes grace and effort to distinguish spirits from vicissitudes makes it easy for the evil one to leverage our lack of skill for his purposes.
The evil one knows how core one’s identity is to (well)being. So, he quickly grasps on to hurtful, unhelpful perspectives and uses them to reinforce lies about who we really are.
You can probably envision people who you know who, no matter how much potential, goodness, talent, etc. you see in them — can’t see it in themselves. They adhere to lies you know are false and are unwavering in their commitment to them.
Unfortunately, we’re all hard-wired that way.
Thanks to the our natural proclivities towards confirmation bias and discomfort with cognitive dissonance, it often becomes easier to believe (and reinforce) the lies we believe about ourselves, than it is to challenge them.
Especially if there are relationships we value that seem to require us to fit a role or pattern for which we’ve been groomed.
Relationships with family members come to mind: in many cases, we may be expected to play certain roles to uphold a familial status quo. To play that role, we have to ‘be’ a certain way — or a certain ‘kind’ of person.
Sometimes, that role becomes more than a role — it becomes our identity. And it may, in fact, be a lie.
If you look at your life and find yourself continually restless, there’s a good chance that there’s an identity lie being tweaked.
Our True Identity
Jesus came so that we could have life – and have it abundantly. It’s a gift freely given to all who are willing to receive it.
That’s easier than it sounds.
The identity lies we believe create obstacles, barriers to grace and barriers to love.
The more rooted we become in the lie, the less likely we’ll expose that part of ourself to the Truth.
And the Truth is that each of us has a name and an identity given to us by the Father, who created us out of love, for a purpose.
None of us is arbitrary; He desires us all. He didn’t have to make us, after all.
And that is the beginning of the Truth: he made you in love, for love, to play a role of love in the world. In your world. In your community. In your family.
The sooner we learn who we are in Him, the sooner we can get on to receiving the gift of an abundant life and sharing it with others, in love.
But what if I don’t know who I am?
If there are parts of your heart that are unsettled, restless, or challenged, ask Him, in prayer, what’s unsettling you.
If, in your mind, you continually conceptualize a hurtful memory or phrase about who you are, you’ve hit the nerve. You’ve uncovered a wound that needs healing or a lie that needs redeeming.
So, give it to Jesus.
Ask Him to reveal the Truth (which is often the direct opposite of the lie) and to seal your knowledge of the Truth.
It can take time.
In some cases, you may need the help of a professional or pastor to give you the skills you need to be able to still yourself, focus your attention, or manage a mental health issue.
But, redemption is a process. Healing is a process. Conversion is a process. And discovering your true identity is a process.
But the first step is being able to recognize the lie, so it can be confronted, cast out, healed and redeemed.
Abundance awaits. Are you the kind of person who receives it?
God bless you.