“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Have you ever joined a group in which the leader says, “Now, we’re going to go around the room and have each person tell us who they are and a little about yourself”? Then, you sit there dreading the moment it’s your turn. You’re so absorbed in trying to identify the best way to describe yourself that you don’t even hear the names of those going before you. Suddenly, Cindy (or was her name Cathy?) finishes and now it’s your turn and you still don’t know what you could share to make these people want to know you more! Yeah, me neither! But in all seriousness, if you are like me, you may struggle with identity. Maybe your struggle isn’t that you don’t know how to describe yourself, but the struggle is that your identity is solidified in one aspect of your life. Perhaps you define yourself by a past traumatic experience or by your greatest former achievement. Is our identity in our relationships or job titles? Are we defined by who others say we are? Knowing who we are is key in living a life of peace.
For years, I walked a tightrope of insecurity and pride. They’re different sides of the same coin. I wanted people to think well of me . . . the people whom I respected, at least. My pride in different aspects of my life was a result of insecurities. If you find someone who’s struggling with pride and arrogance, most of the time they’re actually struggling with insecurity. A prideful attitude may be the result of overcompensation for a lack of confidence or for feelings of inadequacy. This has been my struggle. Even now, I know if I get overly defensive about something it’s because my pride has been hurt due to my own insecurities. Focusing our identities based on the approval of others limits us and the heights for which God desires to take us. Although I’m still a work in progress, I get defensive when the identity I’ve established in the temporary things of this world is threatened. I focus on myself instead of God. In addition, I may stay too long at a temporary stop along my journey just to prove myself.
So I don’t revel in the idea of trying to describe myself. I fear I may share aspects of my life in an effort to garnish the approval of others and feed the prideful beast I’ve tried to tame, when the reality is I’ve done nothing of my own accord that should be admired by anyone. The only truth is that God has taken me on a wonderful journey, and He has carried me through every battle. The devil uses pride to tell us that we are something or that we deserve something of our own accord. In the past, I’ve allowed my identity to be a good reputation in my field of work, inadequacies in my job, overcoming unexpected life experiences, failing at life’s unexpected curveballs, surviving cancer, and other aspects of my life that I’ve allowed the world to affect or influence. When doing this, I’m not focused on the bigger picture. All successes (pride) and failures (shame) are to be surrendered at the altar of God for the greater good of the Kingdom of God. Pride and shame are the result of holding on to life’s experiences and allowing them to define our identity instead of giving them over for a higher purpose.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Our lives have a bigger meaning than making a name for ourselves, being famous or infamous. Our lives are to be committed to the Kingdom of God to make disciples of others. Focusing on one aspect of our lives for too long will cause us to pitch a tent and create identities for ourselves God only intended to use to draw us closer to Him. Anything that draws our attention away from God becomes an idol that separates us from Him. Great things, even good gifts, run the risk of being idols if we don’t put God in the center of them. We stunt our own spiritual growth when we allow any aspect of our lives or any single life experience to define who we are. We may filter all other life experiences through the prism of that identity–good or bad. If the prism through which we filter our identity is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we know we are joint heirs with Christ. It is on that rock that our foundation is built as a church and as individuals. The truth of who we are in Christ is eternal. The things of this world are only temporary. If we’re finding our identity in the things of the world, we aren’t standing on solid ground. If we attempt to secure our identities in idols, we lose ourselves when those idols come down (and they will come down). If our identity is in the temporary status of our lives, then we lose our identity and our peace when that status changes. If we establish our identities in past pains or trauma, we run the risk of not allowing God in to heal our brokenness. We can become so comfortable in sickness that a long list of ailments is the identity that becomes our security blanket.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
By securing our identity in temporal status, pains, trauma, or illness, we may become fearful of losing those things and losing ourselves. The purpose of life experiences is for Him to increase, so that we may decrease (John 3:30). “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth,” says John 3:31. I may be in this world, but I don’t want to be of this world. I want my identity to be in Christ alone. I no longer want who I am to be a litany of life experiences, good and bad, shame and pride, success and failures. I own none of it. I want to leave it all at the altar of the Lord and know I am in the Father and He is in me. So when the question is asked of me, “who are you?” I want to answer, “I am the daughter of the living God.”