If I wasn’t having an identity crisis before the Race then I absolutely did once it started. A year ago today, if someone asked me who I was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to give a very good answer—if any answer at all.
This past year, I went on a trip called the World Race. We traveled to different countries every month, doing different things in each place. The longer I traveled with my teammates, the more I received an identity of the person I was shaping up to be. I quickly became known as a brother, father, son, servant, teacher, pastor, and leader. However, sometimes the labels weren’t the kindest. I was labeled as a liar, cheat, uneducated, naive, lazy, and fake. Over the course of the year, it was challenging to keep up with each label—each naming of my identity. But, what I found is that I could only find out who I was—no one else could do that for me no matter how kind or how unkind their words were. The reality is that identity, at its core, requires us to look deep within ourselves, name who we are and then rest in our identity. But, when we fail to dig out our own character, we spend our lives in a storm of identity schizophrenia, never knowing fully who we are and who we were created to be.
For me, while I traveled the world, I was barely able to recognize that I was sorting out my identity until I was already neck deep in it. As I look back, I see it all began to take form in Month 3 in Africa. Strangely enough, this process of an identity transformation is continuing still. I remember as the heat and culture of Africa started to ramp up, as I received labels like, preacher, pastor, musician, brother, I began looking to see which ones fit me and which ones didn’t. This continued throughout Africa, where I was asked to preach at least once a week if not multiple times a day. I was asked to play music on a regular basis and asked to go from hut to hut or village to village sharing the good news of the Gospel. It would have been easy for anyone to get caught up in the praise and be puffed up by the labels that brought me honor. Likewise, it would have been easy to quickly become deflated by those that brought me down. And to keep myself sane I had to make a choice: choose an identity that would be consistent and unaffected by outward comments.
So where does one start this process of finding identity? For me, I turned to scripture to find out what my creator had to say about who I was. The first verse that I encountered was 2 Corinthians 5:17, which states that now that I am a Christ follower I am a “new creation.” With this revelation, I realized that, because I no longer lived for myself, I now lived for Christ and was made new. Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” I am made new in Christ so I can do the good work that God planned for me. I am a Masterpiece… I am not just an ordinary, regular, simple human. I am a masterpiece—made in the image of my creator to do his work. I should not be tossed by the waves but can walk in the confidence that as a Christ follower, I am made new. I am special and I now have a purpose to do the good work that God has set out for me.
Also, the Lord has given me his spirit and with that comes something interesting that we see in Romans 8:14-17: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.” The writer of Romans is pointing out that I am a child of God—not a stepchild, not a foster child, not a half-child or any other kind of child, but a full child adopted into the family of God and heir to His Kingdom.
Now, I have always seen myself as kind of a prodigal son. While rereading the story in Luke 15 and discussing the story with some friends, I came to a realization that not only was I living the story wrong but was placing my identity in the wrong place. At the end of the story when the son returns home, he comes on hand and knee begging his father to make him a slave so he no longer had to live in the gutter. The father does not make his son a slave. Rather, he returns him to sonship. This is part of the story that I overlooked for so long. The son, when he returned, did not have to be a servant. He was restored as a son and received all the benefits that came with it. I feel like too often when we come to Christ we feel like we have to serve and we need to find our identity in our service because Christ was a servant. We miss the point that like Christ, we are children before we are servants. And, while it is good to serve, it is not where our identity should lie.
Now with this new sonship that I have acquired comes power and responsibility, which is seen in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This verse began to blow me away more and more as I dug into its truths: in my newness, I have divine power! This divine power wages war against the darkness and an authority to keep it in its place. Similarly in John 14:13 Christ tells us “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” So not only do I have authority to fight against the darkness, but I also have the right to ask God for anything that gives glory to Christ.
As I was reading through all these things and processing these things I found that I didn’t feel very adequate to walk in this. God highlighted another person from the Bible who was in the same boat I was in. In Judges 6 we learn about a man named Gideon who was called to save Israel. He was reluctant to step out and do what the Lord was calling him to do but did it and was successful because the Lord was with him. The greatest part of the story is when the Lord sends his angel down to talk with Gideon. The first thing the angel says to him is, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Isn’t that amazing? God knew that Gideon would doubt him and that he would be reluctant to take the job, but God still calls out the best in Gideon and invites him into a destiny bigger than himself in a story that would stand the test of time.
By receiving Christ, I received the Spirit, which allowed me to be fully adopted into the family of God. With the newness that comes with being a son of God created as a masterpiece in His image, I have power, authority and the right to ask things of God to help me as I complete the works that He has set aside for me long ago, even when I don’t feel adequate enough for the job. These truths are amazing, never changing and a rock in which I have built my identity on and a rock which is not only set aside for Gideon and myself but is available for anyone who would receive these promises and walk in them daily.