Who Am I? A Quest for a True Identity
Identity can be hard to define. We are constantly growing, moving, changing. New experiences shape us, and changing circumstances cause us to take on different roles in our lives. So, how can we define who we are as a concrete thing?
I’ve always based my identity on where I am or what I’m doing. My sense of self is based on getting to my next step, as I constantly looking forward to what is coming. In high school, I was the overachieving valedictorian who strived to get into a good college. When it came to school or extracurricular activities, my answer was always “yes,” because the key to standing out on applications was being successful in the classroom and well-rounded. Yearbook editor, class treasurer, honors student...the list went on and on. Although I was proud of what I accomplished in high school, I obsessed over how a girl from a small town in Georgia would stand out in a sea of over 30,000 people at the University of Alabama.
As a college freshman, I defined myself as the first person in my immediate family to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a big university. Once again, I began to find my worth in my grades and my activities. In my classes I worked hard to get all A’s; anything below that would crush me.
I immediately became involved in the Baptist Campus Ministries. I volunteered to help lead singing as a sophomore and was selected to lead a Bible study as a junior. This is also where I met my closest friends. As a result, I have grown in my relationship with God. Yet, I still could not shake the need to feel successful - I wanted to move on to the next chapter of my life.
The fall of my junior year was the most stressful and spiritually draining time I have ever experienced. I am thankful that I built a strong Christian community around me, but as the projects piled up and my time was swallowed up by my daily to-do list, the identity I had rooted in my achievements crumbled. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had a near-breakdown because I thought I had earned an A- in one of my classes (don’t even get me started on my search for summer internships!).
I have a nasty habit of letting my worries snowball, and my mind began to wander. My adult life was coming at me quicker than I expected, and I panicked at the thought of having no new milestone clearly set out for me. There is the basic path: get a job, hopefully get married, and start a family, but once I graduate next year, there’s no specific path that I have to follow. I cannot look to next semester’s grades or an extracurricular activity to set me apart. There is no safety net, no formal expectations. It’s just me. So, who am I?
While none of the things I had invested in were inherently bad – in fact, most of them were a great way to spend my life – my focus was not right. I needed to be content in who I was in Christ, regardless of where I was in life.
That’s when God whispered the truths of my identity, buried deep underneath my idol of achievement:
I am a daughter of the one true King. He loves me no matter how the world perceives me, or even how I perceive myself. True identity – the identity we find in Christ through the grace of His salvation – is constant.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 1:3a
This verse bombarded me in my quiet time, sermons, and songs. God loves me, regardless of how fancy my resume, how packed my planner, or my relationship status. I am His child. Like any good Father, His love is not altered by the mistakes I make or the times I fail Him. Somewhere along the way, I let the idea of grace slip out of my mind. But God, in His mercy, softly called me back. He reminded me that I do not need to earn any kind of love, earthly or heavenly. Instead, I do everything for His glory, no matter what season or chapter I'm in.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31
Our lives and our circumstances may change, but He remains the same. I may not know what is in store for me after college or even tomorrow, but God does. My true self is reflected in Him. My identity in Him will never be shaken.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live int he flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Galatians 2:20
I pray that whenever we have the tendency to put our identity in other things, we remember who Christ has told us we are. Look to His word for your identity. Discover who He is and in the process, you will discover who you are.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. -1 Peter 2:9
Unlike the crowns worn by beauty queens and modern day royals, which come with an expiration date, you have a crown that does not rust and won't be passed on to someone younger, prettier, or somehow more worthy than you.
You have been chosen by the King of Kings to inherit His kingdom (Romans 8:17). He has called you to live a set apart life for Him. Whether your days are filled with college exams, working multiple jobs, or spending time with your family, your crown remains. It may not be visible to the world around you. You may not have been crowned on a stage with millions of viewers, but that doesn't make your crown - or identity - any less valuable. You are called to live the life of a royal daughter. It's in the way you speak, walk, dress, think and LIVE. It's the trust you have that God will provide. It's the radiance in your face because His love, peace, and joy reflects in you. It's the feeling of knowing that there is no better place than the center of God's will.