One of every human being’s most deep-seated needs is to form a personal identity that defines who he or she is.
In my series, The Seven Words, the demon, Sigmund, blocks young Prince Rayne’s memories. Why? So he can implant false memories and warp Rayne’s character—his identity. Rayne’s perception of himself—as seen through the deceptive lens of Sigmund’s corrupted identity—would taint Rayne, making him unable to become the One’s Light Bringer and fulfil the prophecy that promises Sigmund’s failure.
But Rayne’s identity is already secure in the One. He has planted an ember of hope within the young boy, giving him the strength to defy Sigmund. Eventually, Rayne recovers his old memories and, with the One’s help, realizes his true identity as a child of the One.
Influences such as life experiences, the culture that surrounds us, and social media can have a profound effect on the identity we shape. Many people seek to live out a created identity based on what they think people will like, one that makes them popular, gets them into the best college, or lands them the perfect job. We seek to move up some invisible ladder even if it means altering everything about us—including our appearance. Though it seems like a viable strategy and a great way to avoid the pitfalls of surviving in a sometimes-harsh cultural environment, this can lead to hypocrisy as we are forced to live behind a mask of our own creation. A mask fashioned by the dictates of our cultural circle.
For example: I can put on the mask of the perfect mother when I’m with my family at church, but then live with the fear someone will find out that the patient, caring mom they think they know morphs into a screaming banshee when I arrive home and see the mess we left when we ran out the door late.
Or, what about this one? While at lunch with my friends I eat a small salad and drink only water while condemning a companion for eating a burger, all the while putting on an air of self-righteous piety. But when I get back in my car, I binge on the dozen donuts I bought for a meeting later that evening, scanning out my windows like a criminal in fear that one of my friends might see.
Who am I? Who is the real me? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? And if we are honest and admit we need to dismantle a false identity we’ve invested time and energy creating, we can experience stress and depression. Or we can turn angry and defensive as we seek to preserve this mask in our need to protect our socially acceptable identity.
In our goal-driven, production-oriented western society today we tend to link our identities with what we produce. And … as writers, we produce words … in the form of fiction, nonfiction, devotionals, short stories, novels, informational pieces, blogs, etc. … in other words (excuse the pun) we produce sequences of words that make sense and touch our readers in a variety of ways (or so we hope). And—in doing so—our identity can become grounded on performance and people’s opinions.
But as Christians, aren’t we called to find our identity not in what we produce but in how God sees us?
John 15:16—You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. ESV.
1 Peter 2:9—But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you many declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. ESV.
Notice that the fruit bearing and light bringing come after our identities are secure … we are chosen … we are appointed … a special possession … that we might … do for God as he has called us to do.
–Paraphrasing from an article by Melissa Crutchfield; Who am I? A New Way to Define Identity; Dec. 31, 2018.
If we live out of an identity based on how God sees us, we no longer feel the need to find our worth in our external circumstances. (What we do and how people see us.)
We are free to live in a confident and stable manner, instead of changing who we are based on others’ opinions, the jobs we receive or don’t receive, how we see ourselves, and all the other ways we try to define our significance. It allows us to experience God’s unconditional love for us in new and fresh ways. And it allows us to confidently and boldly share His love with others.
To put it another way, my identity is not ‘Chris the writer or Chris the author’. I am those things, but they are not my identity. Instead … my ability to create as a writer … that is, my purpose … is based on my identity as a chosen, royal, holy possession appointed to bear fruit as I call others out of darkness by my writing. This is the purpose for which I have been created. The purpose—or fruit—flows out of my identity in Christ. Not the other way around.