We’ve all heard the quote (attributed to various individuals) about the two most important days in your life being the day you were born and the day you find out why. In a recent sermon, our pastor suggested that the third most important day in an individual’s life is the day you begin to wonder why.
From the moment children begin showing preferences and unique talents, we start asking them what they want to be when they grow up. Essentially, we are prompting them to begin thinking about why they were born. What is it that they were put on this earth to do? Who will they become? What will their identity be?
This question of identity doesn’t end in childhood or when a person chooses a career path. Unfortunately, after years of being conditioned to find our purpose in our life’s work, this continues to be a primary identity for many individuals.
For those of us who do not have a career, or who are not defined by our work, we identify with other attributes: our appearance, our financial status, our success, our geographic location, our relationships, our hobbies . . . the list goes on.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being confident in who we are in any of these areas. I identify as a wife, a mother, a writer, a Californian living in Texas, and a lover of books. I invest time and energy in the most important aspects of my identity and take pride in living each one out to the best of my ability.
The problem occurs when we become so preoccupied withwhat we do and who we are with that we forget to focus on who we ARE. Our identity becomes wrapped up in performance and connections, and is therefore conditional and incredibly fragile. Our value hangs in the balance of our actions and our circumstances, and consequently, we can never do or be enough to measure up to who we claim to be.
Ephesians 1:3 tells us that, before creation even began, we were chosen by God to His beloved children. THIS should be the core of our identity! Not what we do, or the things that we like, or who we are around—all of which could go away at any minute—but the fact that we are chosen and loved by God. He accepts us and longs for relationship with us. And when we define ourselves by His love and acceptance, none of the rest of it matters. It could all be gone in an instant, but our identity—our intrinsic value—remains in tact. As Brennan Manning says, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
I’m in a time of heavy transition in my life right now. We are living in a new house in a new city. I am about to become a mother of twins, and a mom to three. My identity as a writer is likely about to be put on hold for some time. As I walk through these changes of my superficial identities, I will be clinging to the one thing I know about myself, the thing that is most true and that most clearly defines who I am: God chose me, He loves me, and I am His child.