I once bought a bag of white rice overseas. At least that’s what I saw inside the bag. But it was marked “Peanuts” on the top of the package and “Dry Fruits” at the bottom. The ingredients listed on the back were: “toasted dry fruits, salt.” The bar code said it was “long yellow rice.” Apparently the company couldn’t decide if they were selling a thin grain, a dried fruit, or a nut.
Like that bag of rice, I can experience an identity crisis and become confused about who I really am as a Christian. Colleagues and friends sometimes want to put their own tags on me, and then there are the labels I put on myself. In particular, there are two false labels I’m apt to apply.
The first is “master of my universe.” I can view myself as a little god, living by my own strength. I don’t have to depend on anyone, including God. I can choose whatever I want, and work to be successful all by myself. This leads me into relentless activity. I think if I work long enough and hard enough I can control my world. I will be able to fix everything. Along the way, I develop an arrogant attitude and become insensitive to the people around me since I’m the only one who really counts.
The other false identity I take on is “slave.” I let myself be dominated by what other people think of me, by what I want to achieve, by my desire for physical or emotional comfort. Like the “master of my universe” approach, this leads to never-ending effort as I toil away. My life is filled with shoulds and musts and oughts. Fear begins to rule me, and I’m tagged with more labels: powerless, hopeless, insignificant.
However, the identity that matters most is the one that God, my loving creator, gives to me. He says:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:2)
I’ve heard another way to describe my identity in Christ: the daughter of the Most High King. This speaks of my intimacy with a Father who is also a powerful ruler. It reminds me I am freed from slavery, and also brings me down from the pedestal on which I like to stand. And as a daughter, I am part of a larger family, connected to the other sons and daughters of the King.
I confess there are days when my spiritual identity seems like an abstract concept, no more than an interesting thought. But I’ve come to see that on a practical level, who I am in Christ can deeply influence what I do and how I respond to events in my life.
To live in the reality that I am God’s beloved means that:
- instead of being afraid when I face a new challenge, I can be confident
- instead of feeling resentful when my work goes unnoticed, I can be graceful
- instead of boasting when I succeed, I can thank God for His gifts to me
- instead of panicking when I don’t have enough money, I can be calm
- instead of falling into despair when I fail, I can be at peace
Recently I had to take an important and challenging exam. Not a mid-course exam, but the kind that would, in an important way, determine my future. It was a driver’s test. Sounds innocuous but it was here in Morocco with a different driving code, in French (which I’m not fluent in, especially when it comes to driving vocabulary), with 40 tricky questions designed to trip up, rather than to see if you know the basics. Added degree of difficulty: no one actually follows the code, so you can’t rely on what you have seen other drivers do. If I failed, I wouldn’t be able to drive. I found myself feeling very anxious whenever I thought about taking the test. I experienced even greater anxiety at the prospect that I might not pass. My stomach was in knots; my heart was beating fast. I felt overwhelmed.
Then I remembered who God said I was: beloved, redeemed, accepted, forgiven.
In the days leading up to the test, my identity in Christ became an important touchstone. Every time I considered the possibility of a negative outcome, I countered it with, "Yes, but no matter what happens, I will remain God's beloved. I may fail, but that won't change what God thinks of me. Nothing can separate me from his love, including the result of this exam."
Over and over, I spoke that truth to myself. I meditated on what God said in his Word as well, including Deuteronomy 33:12: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” Slowly my perspective changed as I continually remembered that God’s love would never fail me. I experienced a deep peace.
I have also discovered that spending time with others in God’s family helps remind me of who I am. I meet regularly with three other women. We share our joys and struggles, and then pray for each other. As I listen to them talk about how God is working in their lives, I’m inspired by their faith and courage. They remind me of truths I have put aside. I find my focus is brought back to who God is and who I am in him. The encouragement I receive centers me and sustains me in the days ahead.
Perhaps you also are facing challenges and difficulties. Remember that regardless of what happens, you remain God’s beloved child, under his care, protected by his presence. You have been blessed.
You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.
Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.
Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
For additional encouragement, Elizabeth recommends watching the video of Jason Gray singing Remind Me Who I Am. “It’s quite powerful and was very helpful to me. I even made my own 'Beloved' sign.” Elizabeth tells us she passed her driving test.