I come from a solid, supportive family. Although my parents were strict, they were also loving and involved. I grew up with the assurance my life had purpose. I entered adulthood fairly strong, but after an unexpected divorce, I lost the self-confidence of my youth. Suddenly I began to wonder if I had any value. If my marriage partner didn’t love me, did I have anything to offer anyone?
I’m not the only one who has suffered an identity crisis. Divorce, job loss, illness, abuse, and a great number of other things can contribute to a waning sense of self.
Perhaps you’ve struggled with this from time to time, or it gnaws at you continually—Who am I? Why am I here? Do I matter to anybody? What’s it all for? This week, I encountered a person with the answers. His clarity and self-assurance gave me a hook to hang my hat on, so to speak. In one sentence he declared: this is who I am, this is what I do, and this is why I do it. He made no attempts at people pleasing or to convince anyone who might disagree. I found it refreshing and invigorating.
The sentence that caught my eye is the first verse of the book of Romans. Paul started his letter in the usual manner of first century writers. They identified themselves at the beginning of their letters instead of signing at the end. He began, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1).
There is so much power packed in that one little sentence! I had to stop after reading and just take it in. I don’t think he intended for it to be such a profound opening. But I immediately recognized it as the kind of confidence I need. No apologies, no rationalizations or attempts to convince others I, and the work I do, has value. Paul had a sturdy sense of his identity that came exclusively from his relationship with Christ.
So often, we identify ourselves by the work we do: I’m a doctor, teacher, contractor, counselor, logger, writer. Or by our relationships: I’m Britney’s dad, I’m John’s wife, I’m Karen’s Aunt. Paul was schooled by the elite of his day, a Roman citizen by birth, a tent maker by profession, and a respected (and feared) Jewish leader. But after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, none of that mattered to him anymore.
His new identity earned him suspicion, rejection, imprisonment, repeated attempts on his life, and eventually death. But it didn’t cause him to waver or change his course. Every last breath fed into what he said in that one sentence—I live to serve Jesus Christ; the Savior of the world called me to be His apostle; I’ve been set apart (chosen) to spread the news of His death and resurrection, forgiveness and hope for all mankind.
We may not all get to experience an audible voice and blinding light encounter with Jesus. But this kind of self confidence can be ours as well, because Paul went on to say, “And you also…are called to belong to Jesus Christ…loved by God and called to be his holy people” (Rom. 1:6-7, emphasis added). Does that resonate with you: called to belong, loved, invited to be a part of something of eternal significance? Isn’t that what we all long for?
What if we used this as a Template for Identity? How would you fill in the following blanks?
This is who I am:
This is what I do:
This is why I do it:
In the end, Jesus is the only One whose approval and acceptance we need. If we are firm in that, we need never be shaken again.
|from Live, Love, Lead by Brian Houston|
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