I’m super excited about this one – this is one of my Soul Care companions, and one who has been an enormous blessing to me both in the classroom and outside of it. She just GETS it. We’ve bonded over our passion and love and confusion over the crazy topic of identity, as well as helping others learn (and learning ourselves) about how we all truly and functionally see God and ourselves. She possesses an honest heart, a passion for learning, and the amazing skill of balancing a whole lot of laughter with a ton of wisdom. Be blessed by my dear friend Ally’s words.
P.S. You can connect with her on Twitter @allyley or Instagram @ally_ley
Friends, I gotta say: Kallie is such a soul sister! I love so much that she’s making space for this thrilling (and let’s be real, sometimes terrifying) discussion about identity discovery.
The greatest lesson in my own journey of “discovery” as it relates to identity right now is that identity is less making something new and more awakening to truth that’s been there all along.
Let me explain…
For as long as I can remember, I’ve bought into the phrase that life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. The “American dream” culture hammers this home pretty hard. I believed since identity was mine to construct, I better get busy building a good one. So, I did.
For me, what I did defined who I was. If I performed well (measured by people’s comments/reactions/opinions, grades, numbers on a scale, friends on Facebook, anything external), then I was good, meaning I had worth. If I failed to measure up to real or perceived expectations, then I was bad and needed to work even harder to show I was worthy of love and affection.
As you might imagine, this is a pretty exhausting way to live.
I’m learning one of the major problems with this cause-and-effect approach to identity is the underlying lie that I need to earn every bit of self-worth I have. I believed I was a blank slate and only my actions determined where I ended up on the scale between bad and good. I was what I did…for better or worse.
After years of setting goals, agonizing over others’ opinions, and resolving to “be better,” I’m realizing that maybe the way out of this endless performance is not about figuring out a more efficient way to “manage it,” but completely changing how I think about all of this.
One of my recent revelations is that my thoughts about myself tie directly into what I believe about God. Though I could recite verse after verse about God being love, the truth is I’ve lived like God is a harsh judge, distant and uninterested in anything besides my performance. This warped view of God continually fed the lie that I was what I did.
The big problem, I’m discovering, is that God is about as different as can be from my twisted thoughts. Turns out, He’s completely crazy about each and every one of us.Scripture declares over and over again truths about who we are as women and men created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are:
Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14)
Precious and honored in God’s sight (Isaiah 43:4a)
Known by God and set apart before birth (Jeremiah 1:5)
Made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
The truth is that identity was never meant to be something you create or sustain on your own. It has already been given to each of us by God.
I think that’s what Jesus is talking about in the gospel of John when He reminds His disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches (John 15:4-5). Only the vine sustains life, the branches just stay connected. I’m learning it’s the same way with us: our identity is always something to be received, never achieved.
In this same verse, Jesus declares that apart from Him we can do nothing. Everything we do first flows out of who we are, and I think here He means that that authentic identity can never be found apart from the One who it all comes from in the first place: God. Life isn’t about creating yourself from scratch; it’s about discovering who God has made you to be.
And that, my friends, is where the real fun begins.