A large majority of my elementary school summers were spent at a nearby park. Every morning, my sister and I joined the neighborhood kids with our bagged lunches in hand, and walked to Fritse Park for a day of “supervised” play while our parents headed to off work.
My memories of those summers consist mostly of the smell of peanut butter and arts & crafts supplies. But there is one memory that’s less nostalgic. I was probably only waist high, but felt tall while standing on a baby swing, moving back and forth.
Until, that is, “Marty”, the neighborhood bully stepped in front of me, and grabbed the chains, bringing me to an abrupt stop. He was a teenager, and stood inches from my face. He looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Your dad’s a LOSER!”
“HE IS NOT!” I defended. But Marty kept repeating it over and over until I began crying. As I look back now, I shake my head at that cute little girl….so feisty…and hurt. It was silly that I’d let him upset me so badly, considering that he didn’t even know who my dad was! But I did and he was anything but loser. So why did it bother me so much?
When we’re little, our identity has yet to be “formed.” We’re far from knowing who we “are” yet and have no accomplishments to define us. So what do we have to rely on then? The identity of our caregivers. Simply put, if my Dad was a loser, then I had to be a loser too!
There’s lots of talk about ‘identity” and “purpose” these days. They’re so closely tied together, in fact, that many people confuse the two.
There are three reasons we have to know WHOSE we are in order to know WHO we are!
1. We’re made in God’s image
Isn’t it ironic that God created Adam as an adult man? His first full day of life spent hanging out with God in the Garden of Eden included no memories of his past, or accomplishments to look to for his identity. His identity WAS in God’s love, approval and satisfaction. We don’t need to rely on our own abilities, character, or roles to know who we are. In fact, doing so just may get us into trouble (or smack dab in the middle of an all-out identity crisis)!
2. It impacts how we see and relate to God
There’s no better evidence of this than Psalm 23. (You know it….”The Lord is my shepherd….”) You don’t need to look it up to know who we are in this metaphor. When asked, even small children know who we are: SHEEP! And yet…the word “sheep” isn’t found anywhere in this chapter of the Bible. If God is the shepherd, we must be His sheep. Even more importantly, knowing who He is gives us a security and rest unlike any other.
3. We’re born into Christ’s likeness when adopted into His family
There’s a certain look my Dad gets when he hears something odd. The inner most corner (and ONLY that corner) of his right eyebrow raises like a question mark, giving him away every time. Several years ago, for the very first time, he met his biological sister who was separated at birth. Imagine when they recognized this same expression in each other during their time together! While my aunt never met my grandmother, this little idiosyncrasy of hers was in her children’s DNA and inherited at birth! There’s much in Scripture about the attributes of God that we inherit from our Father when we receive Him into our lives. (Ephesians 5:8, 1 John 4:17, 2 Corinth 5:21 to name just a few.)
Our identities as humans are rich and multi-faceted. Knowing who we are gives us insight into how we interpret and show up for the world around us. Increased self-awareness can even help us become more aware of others. (Empathy, for example, is experienced by being able to identify and connect with the another person from a piece of us that is similar). But far more important than knowing who we are is knowing whose we are. Because who we are will likely change more times than we can count over the course of our lifetime. But our Father is unchanging, and knowing this and who He is, brings a stability, comfort and peace that is unshakable!