Identity is such a big part of our modern day society. Recently I have gone through a huge identity change, and it’s made me think about identity on a bigger scale.
In October 2016 I got married. It was an incredible day that we spent 11 months planning for. However, one thing Tom and I made sure of was that we didn’t focus on the day so much that we forgot what it was actually about!
A wedding is a day to celebrate the start of a marriage. And a marriage is a much bigger deal than one day, and also a huge identity changer. You go from being I to we, considering someone else in literally every decision, and for me, I changed my name.
A name isn’t everything, but it is something that you can find your identity, or part of your identity in.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God creates mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he has made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.
Genesis 1:26-31 (NIV)
God created us, man and woman, in His image, and with a mandate.
As we see in the scripture, the original mandate of humankind was to steward the earth. To have dominion over all the creatures, tend the land and to be fruitful, increasing in number. However, as you read further into Genesis, we learn that we didn’t do a great job of this – in Genesis 3 the story of the fall is told. Mankind chose to go against the will of God, and when this happened, sin got in our way and altered every plan that God had for us.
I believe God meant man and woman to live alongside one another in harmony, with complimenting attributes and skills. But after sin, mankind was thrown into a new world of domination and subservience, and rather than living in harmony, battling with one another, God and the world. All the whole, arguing over whether they should even be arguing.
Mankind turned so far away from the plan God had intended for us, that He sent a flood (see Genesis 5-9) to wipe us out almost entirely, and it says clearly in scripture that God regretted making man (Genesis 6:6).
But there was a glimmer of hope – a glimmer that as you go on through the Bible you see never ever fades.
Soon enough, we get to the story of Jesus, who stood in the gap for all humanity – rescuing us from the path we deserved and placing us where only grace would allow us to stay standing.
We deserved to die a sinner’s death, and Jesus, who was the only man to live completely sinless, took our sin and died the death we were entitled to so that we could live the life that only He was worthy of.
At creation, God gave us free will, and when we were faced with a decision (I think Eve represents all of us in the moment she is tempted by the serpent) to follow what God asked us to do, we chose to disobey, we chose sin, and I think it’s from that moment onward that we have been losing our identity and battling with who we are.
We see it straight away; the fact they clothed themselves shows they felt shame, the way they were hiding from God shows they were embarrassed and when God asks if they had eaten the fruit Adam essentially says “Eve did it!” Already their bond and harmony is damaged, and their identity is changed.
In our current culture, people struggle with their past and upbringing, abuse they have suffered, standards they’re striving to meet, stereotypes they’re trying to fit in to, expectations they’re reaching for, etc
The truth is, when we look to identify ourselves there are so many factors spanning the globe.
In the world the things you can find your identity in could be any of these – money, possessions, where you live, what you wear, how you look, what you eat, what you do for a living, where you shop, whether you have a significant other, whether you share a bank account with the SO, whether you are married, whether you have kids, what your sexuality or gender identity is, whether you have a mortgage, whether you get a pay rise or promotion, whether you go on regular spa days or golf days, whether you own a car or more than one car, whether you eat out much, what kind of coffee you like, etc etc etc
None of it means anything, none of it really says anything about who you are.
As a Christian people can define themselves by still a ridiculous list – how much you read your Bible, what kind of church you go to, what your prayer life looks like, if you can recall scripture at the drop of a hat, if you’ve been for dinner at your pastor’s house, if you’ve gone out for coffee with your leader recently, if you’re missed when you’re not at church on a Sunday, if you’re a “real” Christian, if you listen to Christian music, if you have the latest CD in your car, what devotionals you read, whether you raise your hands or pump your fists in worship, whether you have a fish on your car somewhere, if they know your name in the local Christian book shop, how often you sin, and even how badly you rate that sin.
Still ludicrous! None of it tells you a thing about WHO you are!
As a follower of Jesus, we should define ourselves by one thing, and it’s not who you are… it’s WHOSE you are.
In Exodus 3:16, and then in John 8:58 when Jesus is speaking, we see God refer to Himself as “I AM”; He didn’t need a description. He didn’t need to define Himself – all He needed to say was I AM.
We mess about with so many different “defining” factors, but actually the only thing that truly matters is that we are children of a God who loves and pursues us to the end of days. He calls us son or daughter. He loves us from the beginning to the end of time. He loves us in the low places and the high ones. He loves us despite and because of our flaws and our attributes.
We see in Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus being tempted by the devil, and the constant thing that the devil throws at Jesus is “If you are the Son of God…”
You know even Jesus was attacked over His identity. He was aware of this struggle. And in those moments, He hit back at the devil with the only thing He knew He could stand strong on – the Word of God. Scripture. It’s the mightiest weapon.
The Word of God is powerful, and something we need to stand on more in our battles with identity. I recently listened to a great message about “speaking the language of faith”. I believe that speaking the language of faith into our lives can make a huge impact in our day to day, and how we cope with what comes up in life.
When you speak life over yourself – the language of faith over yourself – you stand up tall and your posture changes.
Abram and Sarai (in Genesis 17-21) were promised a son by God but they did believe that God could fulfil that promise. He told them they would be called Abraham and Sarah from then on, these names meant Father of Many and Mother of Princes. So for 25 years they were speaking those names, and those promises over one another before they bore a child. By the time it happened, their faith had grown, and they had become accustomed to those names and the language of faith they had adopted. I don’t know if literally speaking those words changed anything physically, but it certainly would have changed their attitudes.
So what do we start need to speaking over ourselves? What words of faith and belief do we need to start declaring over our lives?
Friend, mother, father, sister, brother, child. Or Confident, smart, leader, capable, strong, able, wise, prophetic, prayer warrior, teacher, activist, helper, loyal, pure trustworthy, or trusted?
All of these statements are true, and things we need to believe about ourselves and are words we should speak into our lives. But what’s the one that matters? The thing we should identify ourselves by?
I am the daughter of a King. That is my identity. Full stop.
We should all speak that language and identity over ourselves. Daughter of a King, son of a King… No description, no definition, because the name of God is enough to give us our identity.
What do you wish you could have taught yourself or told yourself as a younger you? Are there words that you wish you could have known, like Abraham and Sarah had in their lives? Who would you have liked to know you were going to be to help you through the hard times?
Try writing a letter to yourself at a formative time of your life. Think of the words you needed to hear then. Think of how that would have encouraged you to continue, to push on.
How might that help someone else? How does it change how you look at yourself now? What do you think in 20 years you’ll write to yourself for today?
Let me know in the comments any thoughts or things you would have spoken over you life or wished you realised sooner.
For me confidence is a big thing. I never believed I would have the confidence to share my words with other people. I have never believed in myself. I still struggle with that, but I know now that it doesn’t matter. If God wants to use me, He will equip me and give me strength. I know now, looking back over the last couple of years I have had the confidence to do things I would have never done in my own strength, and that’s why I am thankful that I am the daughter of a King.