Who Are You?
You know a tiny bit about me. Now, who are you? Not your name, but who you are.
I mean it. Do you know who you are? If all your accomplishments, human relationships, tasks, and possessions were taken from you, what would be left of you?
I have this thing about my primary identity being a Christian; being with Christ and in Christ (Eph. 2:4—7).
Before I’m female or a co-worker or a church member or a sister or single or a customer or anything else, I am a Christian. I chose to become a child of God many years ago. I continue daily to choose following God as best I know how.
I wasn’t raised with this connection. I chose my connection with Jesus as my primary identity and work at subordinating all my other identities and roles to that primary connection. My primary identity being Christ helps me stay grounded and focused on what is really important in this life. It helps me avoid a lot of fear, insecurity, and heartache.
As I talk to single Christians all over the country, whether young or old, rich or poor, no matter what their nationality or background are, I am finding one thing that stands out which makes a difference in how effective they are for the kingdom of God and in their own personal lives. It’s knowing that, first and foremost, before they are anything else, they are a follower of Christ. They, too, have learned that their primary identity being Christ helps them stay grounded and focused on what is really important in this life. It also helps them avoid a lot of fear, insecurity, and heartache.
Most Christians, especially in America, do not know who they really are.
They do not understand the difference between an identity and a role. When you ask someone who they are, they will usually tell you what they do for a living or what their role is: “I’m a mechanic, I work for Toyota.” “I go to (whatever) State University.” “I’m a single mother with 2 pre-schoolers.” “I work for the city/county/state.” “I’m Jimmy’s uncle.” Press them for a more definitive answer, and they are often lost as to what you mean until they suddenly remember that they’re also a Christian! With a sigh of relief, they’ll tell me they’re a Christian and go to Such-and-Such Church.
I bring this up because, I have observed, not knowing the distinction between identity and role often causes a Christian to become completely engulfed and overwhelmed by a world system that wants to neutralize your light so they can pacify themselves that they will not feel convicted being around you (John 1:5, 3:20; 1 Pet. 4:4). Temptations arise that entice these believers to join their peers for some activity that looks neutral or innocent but ends in the entrapment of their souls to something they can’t unshackle easily.
Case in point: I remember a new single employee telling me years ago that she had just returned to the Lord after years of hellish living and had just started going back to church. Because I didn’t work in her department, however, I didn’t see her often, and within weeks her new peers had dragged her right back into the lifestyle she’d just escaped from. She found me the morning after and ruefully told me that she let them drag her to the club to go clubbing till 3 in the morning and she felt tired and regretful. We talked and prayed. However, she didn’t escape their clutches until she left the department years later.
As you know, this happens to believers every day. I see new employees walk in all the time who are Christians, who are enthused about joining the company or agency and whose light shine brightly for Christ. In a matter of weeks or days, their light is extinguished and they have joined the status quo in an attempt to fit in and prove they’re normal=just like their colleagues=no different from the world, they just have a little tag on the end labeled “Christian” that no longer means anything, at least in the workplace.
It’s very easy to get distracted and sidetracked away from the real reason why you. Are. Here. And, compared to eternity, we’re not here for long. We have to make the most of the time we are given (Ephesians 5:15—17).
So—what is a role vs. an identity?
A role describes the function, status, position, or responsibility you play in relation to other people or in a particular situation. It can change. For instance, you become a husband when you follow the laws of the state where you live and become legally married to the woman you’ve been dating. If she dies, your status changes to widower. If she divorces you, your status changes to divorced in relation to your former wife.
An identity is who you are at your core, your distinct blend of qualities that make you different from anyone else. Your identity doesn’t change from situation to situation. Whether or not you are a husband, a widower, or a divorced man, you would still be a Christian who happens to be a husband, a widower, or a divorced man.
So… Who are you again?
This is not a call to guilt and shame. This is simply asking: Who/Where/What is your strongest affiliation? Is it to the family you grew up in, the college you’re attending, your title, position, career, or work, your spouse, your children or grandchildren (I have to admit those “I love my granddogs” license frames are really cute!), your denomination, your church?
These roles, these associations, are necessary for life on earth, but they are destined to evaporate the moment you die, though only from your perspective. You need something more permanent to attach your soul to. If you have decided to follow Jesus, then He is your identity. When you know who you are in Christ, you are less apt to become overcome by fear, insecurity, and heartache.
You can avoid fear by internalizing, taking deep into your soul, the peace and contentment that goes with knowing God loves you outrageously and lavishly. You don’t have to be insecure because you realize there’s nothing and no one to be jealous or competitive about; the ground at the foot of the cross is level and there is enough of His love, grace, and mercy to go around. You can be yourself and accept others more openly. (Secret: This God-based confidence really helps you in Christian singles circles!) And you can detour around many heartaches as you develop better insight and wisdom, set stronger limits, and make better choices.
I know it’s hard to remember all that when you can’t see Him, but you can see your colleagues smiling and inviting you again this week to join them at a bar after work when you planned to go to church! We like to fit in, it’s human nature. I get it. If you don’t think you should go, remember that He died to fuse His strength into you as you identify with Him. Ask God to help you say No, then open your lips and say, “No, thanks, but I appreciate the offer! I like you guys!” and go to your car.
This was a pretty heavy topic tonight, but it’s one of my passions for Christians and especially Christian singles or women, to begin to live in the identity for which Christ died. I hope that you will ponder where you have affiliated yourself most strongly and reset it to Christ as your primary identity.
Takeaway: If you’re a child of God, live for Him. He will become your source of strength, security, and confidence.
“He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” Psalm 62:6—7 (NKJV)
Definitions of identity and role were from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accessed 01/11/2016.