Have you arrived at 2020 hoping this will be a year of personal transformation?
At the start of such a journey, it’s crucial to know who you already are.
And to take into account who you most definitely are not.
The late Catholic devotional writer Henri Nouwen famously presented what he called The Five Lies of Identity:
I am what I have.
If that’s true, what happens if you fail to wrap your hands around the right car, the right house, or the right clothes? And what happens when all of your stuff inevitably begins to slip through your fingers?
I am what I do.
This is one of those unyielding lies at the heart of our show-me-your-resume culture. If we buy into it, then losing a job or experiencing the end of a career can feel devastating. Who am I now?
I am what other people say or think of me.
Believing the verdicts of co-workers, neighbors, social media followers – and even those who have pledged their love to us – is to risk surrendering our identity to people who cannot possibly know who we really are.
I am nothing more than my worst moment.
If so, then you will be tortured all your life by your biggest blunder. You may have made a grievous mistake. But that doesn’t mean that you, at the center of your being, are a grievous mistake.
I am nothing less than my best moment.
At the other end of the spectrum, you are not the highlight reel of your life that you post on Facebook.
If we are incapable of accurately discerning our own value, and must never grant other people the power to define our lives, how can we know our true identity? St. Francis of Assisi said it well: “I am who I am in the sight of God. Nothing more, nothing less.”
How do we know who we are in the sight of God?
In one jaw-dropping text (Ephesians 1:3-14), which is actually a single run-on sentence in the original Greek, the apostle Paul offers a glimpse.
All those who have abandoned themselves to Jesus have been blessed, chosen, predestined, spiritually adopted, redeemed, forgiven, included in God’s family, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. “Predestined” means that God knew you and loved you even before you were you.
There will be moments this year in which everything goes to pieces.
But as author Caron Loveless observes, you don’t have to be one of them.
We can know that our identities, no matter what we have to face, will remain absolutely whole.
For the simple reason that God says so.
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