Who You Truly Are
It’s no secret that I love music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sure, maybe Hamilton is overrated, but there’s a reason for its overnight popularity. Miranda’s music speaks to us on a human level — depicting epic themes of despair, redemption, and identity.
In another Lin-Manuel musical, identity is central to the story. In Moana, a princess (would it be a Disney movie without a princess?) takes a long journey across the sea to save her beloved island village. Along the way, Moana discovers the truth about herself. And after discovering who she is, Moana speaks love and truth to the big bad villain, Te Ka, in this beautifully short song:
I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are
Who you truly are
Just like Moana, we as individuals are driven to find out who we are and what our purpose is. We are on a journey to discover who we truly are. What you believe about your identity can dramatically affect how you feel, think, and act.
So, who do you think you are?
Identity as a Child of God
We live in a bit of a work-obsessed culture. The first question we ask someone new is often, “So, what do you do?” Our jobs are our status symbols. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller explores how we make work our primary identity:
“[The human heart wants] to make work, and its attendant benefits, the main basis of one’s meaning and identity. When this happens, work is no longer a way to create and bring out the wonders of the created order, as Calvin would say, or to be an instrument of God’s providence, serving the basic needs of our neighbor, as Luther would say. Instead it becomes a way to distinguish myself from my neighbor, to show the world and prove to myself that I’m special.”
When what we do becomes our primary identity, the job becomes an idol. That’s what happened to me. It took God’s grace-filled, yet firm, direction of me leaving two jobs to finally realize that I have value apart from my LinkedIn description. It’s a process, and I’m not there yet, but I’m starting to see my identity as rooted in Christ, not an occupation. This has been the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn, and I can’t take the credit for it. God is working in me to produce a transformation.
This process is slow for me, because I’m unlearning lies I’ve told myself for years. I believed that a job would give me prestige, financial security, and community. I wanted all of those things more than I wanted God. In Mindful Silence, Phileena Heuertz speaks of our two selves. Our true self is free and unafraid, while the false self craves affirmation, power, and security:
“The false self finds its identity in circumstances and other people, which leaves the false self terribly insecure and attached to the things of this world. The true self finds its identity in God.”
Ironically, since becoming more vulnerable about these issues, I feel much differently about them. God has given me a spirit of boldness and strength. Recently, I was passed up for a new job I wanted, and it didn’t shatter my self-perception or sense of purpose. I know God has something in mind for me, where I can use my gifts to serve others. In Ephesians 1:11-12, Paul writes, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”
Identity is very important. How do we claim Christ as our primary identity?
Untangling Our Identity from Idols
How do you define yourself?
If you had to choose three labels for yourself, what would they be? Maybe you’re an INFJ, travel-obsessed engineer. Or maybe you’re a fashion-forward, yoga-practicing #boymom. Humans love labels, because it means we can establish community in just one word. Either you’re in or you’re out.
Since sin came into the world, good things, even gifts from God, can become idols. Your job. Your kids. Your hobby. Your partner. Even Fluffy or Fido. We were made to belong to God, and to worship him alone. Anything else will never satisfy that biological wiring.
So, how do you define yourself? Is being called a disciple of God something you’re excited about or even comfortable with?
Do you seek service or security?
Keller notes in Every Good Endeavor that “We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose.” What does this look like? Your purpose should be to serve others, not gain personal power or security. While making lots of money isn’t necessarily a bad goal, a job should never come before your mental health, your relationships with others, or your pursuit of Christ.
Do you view things in light of eternity?
My insecurities reveal my heart. I’m guilty of wasting a lot of time and energy worrying about stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter. Like how clean our house is when guests are over. Or how much money I’m making. Or even, how well-liked I am by my family or accepted by friends.
What I chase after (and worship) reveals where I put my trust. Even in crappy circumstances, Jesus promises life in full abundance. Just look at Paul while he was imprisoned — his letters are joyful and full of life. Paul knew that he would spend eternity worshipping his Creator and the Christ. His reward was in Heaven. And that gave him the hope and perseverance to get through any earthly disappointments.
In Colossians 3:2, Paul urges us to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
All of humanity bears God’s image (Genesis 1:27). But as disciples of Christ, we’re set apart from the rest of the world. The children of God are different people entirely (2 Corinthians 5:17)! That alone reminds us that our ideals, beliefs, and actions should reflect our new identity as disciples of the living God.
My dad used to play a song called We Are One in the Spirit all the time. Written by Fr. Peter Scholtes, the chorus goes like this:
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love
Providence, may Omaha and the rest of humanity know that we’re disciples of Christ and children of God by our love. Amen!