Identity: Beyond the Looking Glass

If you were asked to identify yourself, what would you use?

You would probably get some sort of ID from your purse/wallet. Maybe you would pull out your driver’s license, passport, work ID badge or maybe your library card.
There is bound to be something in there that describes you and identifies you from others.

If you couldn’t find your ID, perhaps you would have someone vouch for you – but what if there was no one who could verify who you are?

What would you do? How would you know who you are?

As important as our identity is in regard to finances and possessions, there is an even more important aspect of our identity and it is based on who we are (our character) –rather than what we physically own or possess.

For example…If you ask a man to describe himself, he will typically respond by saying what he does for his work; he’s an engineer, or carpenter, or auto mechanic, etc. It’s the first thing he talks about when he’s around other men.

On the other hand, as women we identify ourselves by the quantity and quality of relationships with our family and others. We say things like, I’m a mom, a daughter, a wife and a friend.

Occasionally a person might have a bit of an identity crisis. I’ve blogged about it in previous posts – this “crisis” has to do with when we deny or dismiss who God created us to be, and we take matters into our own hands and attempt to reinvent ourselves.

This can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes it might be out of insecurity: perhaps having grown up in a family that never offered any reassurance or affirmation. For some it might be mental illness or an unwillingness to embrace truth and then there are those who reinvent themselves to gain attention, affection, acceptance or respect.

Madonna, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson are musical examples of reinventing themselves in order to stay in the public eye. Their constant need for the applause and accolades of others drives them to continually morph into who they think their fans want them to be sometimes in stark contrast to who they were created to be.

There are some people who will attempt to create a fresh start when they have damaged all relationships beyond repair. This desire to reinvent and assume a false persona is nothing more than identity fraud.

These are the people who leave a wake of relational destruction behind them. Perhaps you have had someone like this in your life. Rather than taking personal responsibility for their behavior, they dismiss, blame or deny culpability and take on a new persona (identity) in hopes that this one will stick and allow them to get their needs met.

The movie Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts is a classic example of identity reinvention. In the movie Julia’s character, Maggie Carpenter hops from relationship to relationship adapting like a chameleon to the man she is with. It is not until she meets someone who challenges her identity that she owns up to the fact that she has no concept of who she is at her core.

For Maggie, the truth teller is a reporter sent to do an expose on her shenanigans. For us – that person who challenges, knows and understands our true identity is God. He created us. He is intimately aware of our every thought, feeling, need and want. Sure He could dish dirt on us that would make the Kardashian’s look like Girl Scouts, but He extends us grace and mercy instead.

God desires for us to know and embrace our true identity – our spiritual identity.
Like the physical ID you carry in your purse/wallet, we also have spiritual identities that describe who we are and what we possess in the spiritual realm.

Scripture tells us we belong to God and that our identity is in Christ.

God must consider it to be very important because those exact words (or ones very similar) are found in the New Testament over 170 times.

In the world we live in it is easy to confuse the messages of the world for God’s truth about our identity.

When we lose sight of who we are, we are tempted to become someone we are not. This is a trap.

God created us for Himself and He is a jealous God. He wants us – heart and soul. Not because He is a control freak and wants to dominate us and keep us under His thumb.
He wants us heart and soul because He loves us – unconditionally and without limits.
He loves us AS IS.

How freeing is that? We don’t have to try to “become” in order to gain Gods love and acceptance. We don’t have to reinvent ourselves. We already are the men and women God designed us to be – to reflect His glory and His goodness.

Maybe you are in a relationship with someone who is continually reinventing themselves or if you are honest, maybe it is you. Whatever the case – I hope you know that God really loves you AS IS. Right here, right now. Will you trust Him and take Him at His word?

From Abnormal to New Normal

One of my all time favorite movies is Young Frankenstein. In my opinion it is the best of all Mel Brook’s movies. I love it because it is funny, dark, twisted and slightly inappropriate with just the right amount of slapstick humor you expect from Mel Brooks. The cast of characters is impressive, but my favorite is Igor, played by Marty Feldman.

In an innocent twist of fate, Igor misreads the labels on the brain samples he is collecting for Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment. This mistake begins a chain of events that were both unintentional and irreparable when he chooses the brain he calls, “Abby Normal”.

Sometimes our lives can feel like a cruel twist of fate. When something beyond our control or knowledge has significant and lasting impact on us, and we are powerless to change the outcome.

Much like the young Dr. Frankenstein, we are forced to make a decision about how we will respond. Will we despair and give up or do we rise to the challenge and embrace the “abnormal” as opportunity?

We all face difficult situations everyday. For some it is finding out that your spouse has been unfaithful, job loss, foreclosure of your dream home, death/loss or caring for an ailing parent.

Often times when our circumstances are so far from what we envisioned for our life, we feel we’ve been deposited in some foreign land and we are unable to speak or understand the language. In other words we are lost. Emotionally we lose our identity, our sense of what we thought we knew to be true.

As a therapist I sit with people in the midst of their greatest hurts and help them sort through their feelings, process the choices they are making and offer hope that they are not in fact as lost as they thought.

We often approach life with the mindset, that we control our own fate and destiny. Then when circumstances rock our world, we get mad; at ourselves, with our family/friends and at God. We attempt to inform God about the way it is supposed to go down and hope He gets His act together.

We take the stance that God owes us an answer, and it better be a good one that makes sense to us AND makes us feel better, thank you very much. In our finite thinking we try to demand God to answer to us. When we engage God this way we grieve His heart and we miss out on the transformational process He has for us when we are willing to yield, trust and obey.

If God has you in a difficult season of your life and everything seems “Abby Normal” try surrendering the ideal of what you thought things should look like and trade it in for the “New Normal”. This is where God meets us in the daily-ness of life. A life surrendered and open to the possibilities of what God can do versus a life spent trying to convince the Lord why our way is better.

Hear me out; I am not suggesting that the New Normal is easy, fun or a short cut. I am saying that when we pursue looking at our circumstance and where God has us in our lives through the lens of opportunity, rather than what is missing we are more likely to find peace and hope in the midst of our challenges.