Love Thyself: Knowing Your Center of Identity

Where do you find your identity and purpose?

Take a moment and think about the answer to this question.

I encourage you to pull out your journal or a piece of paper and write down the things and habits that define you.  What is your life centered on?  Why?  Are you focused on making money so that you can prove your worthiness to someone?  Are you striving to have the perfect body in order to feel admired and worthy of love?  Do you find your ultimate purpose in your partner or your children?

A relationship early on in high school became my life focus.  Everything I said, did, and thought about centered on one person.  It was thrilling to be caught up in high school puppy love.  But, when the guy eventually turned away and rejected me, I was devastated. I remember sitting on my bed stunned and depressed.  Staring blankly at the green walls of my room, I thought to myself “Who am I?  I don’t know who I am.”  During the previous sixth months, my entire identity had been in relation to this other person.  When that person failed me and stepped off the pedestal of awe I had placed him on, I had an identity crisis.

My grades also became an unhealthy source of identity for me.  If I wasn’t the top in my class and getting high A’s in all my classes, I felt worthless.  Performance, fear of failure, and perfectionism were the driving force behind much of what I did.

 

“If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.” – Timothy Keller

 

Thankfully, God has freed me from these fragile identifiers, and rooted me in a deeper, unshakable identity.

Paul Tripp explains that all of us struggle in that we “look for identity horizontally, when [we were] hardwired by God to get it vertically.”1 In other words, we look for something in creation to define us such as work or romantic relationships.2  These things can create a “sense of identity that is marvelously distorted,” but not the true unshakable identity that is found in Christ.3

 

“If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning of life, and identity then it is an idol.” – Timothy Keller

 

Money, grades, looks, relationships, and success can (and probably will) fail you.  If your life focus, and metaphorical “god” fails you, what happens then?  Will you turn to depression?  Will you try to medicate with food, alcohol, or drugs?

When your identity is centered on something greater than you, your outside circumstances suddenly have way less power to influence your internal world.  Someone at work could insult you, but you are confident and comfortable enough not to snap back at them, become angry, or turn to self-loathing.  Why?  Because you know who you are, and this knowledge is not reliant on other people’s actions or words, nor is it reliant on your emotions.

God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.  ~ Jerry Bridges

Lisa Bevere writes about God,

“Because He is, you are.  Because He is love, you are loved and you can be loving. Because He is life, you are alive. Because He is able, you are capable. Because He is almighty, you are mighty. Because He is a healer, you are healed. Because He is wisdom, you can be wise. Because He is a master artisan, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”3

Christ is the only firm foundation in which to find identity and purpose, because he will never change his character nor will he fail his people (see Hebrews 13:8).

In my next post I will talk about replacing lies with truth, truth that is rooted in Christ.

Further Reading:

Sources:

  1. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-is-your-identity
  2. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-is-your-identity
  3. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-is-your-identity
  4. http://messengerinternational.org/blog/devotional/never-self-identify/

 

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