It is interesting to me, in this age of uber information, to see what creates identity for people.
If you keep up with the hype of college sports, you will probably recall the most recent “tripping incident” with Grayson Allen. Grayson is a very talented guard who plays basketball for the Duke Blue Devils. In recent months, Grayson has been getting much press for his deliberate tripping of players on the court.
As I listen to announcers talk about this, they are dumbfounded and say they have never seen the likes of this. Here is the most recent incident involving Allen. What drew further attention was the tantrum Grayson displayed going to the bench after his technical.
The humorous question I saw asked was, “Is Grayson Allen the most hated Duke basketball player of all time?”
Unfortunately for Allen, these incidents have gone beyond gamesmanship – they have now become his identity as a player.
Why is identity so important?
Our identity is what defines or characterizes us. It speaks to where we find our significance, worth, or value. And because of my own brokenness and sin, my tendency is to find my identity in what I do, performance, or perception by others.
When I was a young parent, my identity as a father was important to me. In fact, I began to find my identity in how I was perceived by others as a parent. And since this was true, guess what mattered? My kids’ behavior. Their performing well, doing what they were told, saying “thank you,” modeling “Christian behavior” became the guidepost to which I measured how I was doing.
And I will tell you firsthand, God allowed me to go after that “hook” and run the line out into the open water. And it was not long before I was running into some major walls with my son of my own making. My identity became tied to his performance. And it very nearly derailed our relationship. To make a long story short, God allowed the deep pain of my own decisions to drive me to repentance and see that relationship restored to something I absolutely treasure.
Identity drives us
The fact about identity is that it drives all of us. Being made in the image of God, my inner wiring is designed to find my identity in the One who created me, not in all of His creations. But Romans describes my condition:
because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! (Romans 1:25)
There are myriad things we can find our identity in: vocation, hobbies, talents, marriage, to name a few. And try as we might, if we find our identity in these, it will not be long before they self destruct and lose their “shiny-ness.”
And the problem is not in the objects or relationships. For they were never designed by the Creator to be the foundation of our identity. The issue is in my perception of them. I have ascribed more significance and value to them than they were intended to have.
Identity issues: we all have ’em
So where are your identity issues? One way that I have uncovered mine is to see what causes tension within when that whatever or whoever does not meet expectations. With the example of my son, when I felt he was not performing according to my expectations, I felt as if I needed to exert more control because what I found my identity in was in conflict with how I thought things should be.
I can say with great assurance that if you find your identity in the wrong things, life will get incredibly skewed.
So, what happens if get this whole identity thing wrong?
- You keep searching and searching and searching. What gives worth now? What establishes value for me? What provides hope in my life? And they just keep disappointing.
- You are in for a huge valley in your life. When identity disappoints, I can get a very dark view of life. And my wrong view of God gets perpetuated. This is His fault. Why do these things have to always happen to me? Why can’t I ever find satisfaction?
- If some is good, more is better. An incorrectly-placed identity becomes like an drug that is taken too often. What used to work last time I was sick no longer works like it used to. And so I believe the answer is that I need more. Except “the more” only provides a brief high. And then comes the major letdown…again.
Placing our identity where it never disappoints
This is why God commands that our identity, our worth, our value, our significance, be found in Him and in His Son Jesus. Read the book of Ephesians – Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” around 27 times.
I find significance in God, who adopted me as His son and blesses me with every spiritual blessing.
I find worth in Christ, who did not just take my sin, but became my sin.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
So where are you finding your identity? John Piper said it remarkably well: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”