So, who are you? Many respond to that question by sharing their roles: “I am a mom.” “I am a dad.” “I am a sister.” “I am a wife.” “I am a husband.” “I am a lawyer.” “I am a teacher.” “I am an athlete.”
It’s not surprising that we answer the question this way. One of the first questions we ask children is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a fine question, but by asking it over and over again, we teach kids that they are what they do. We coach our children to substitute roles for true identities.
As youngsters grow into teenagers and teenagers into young adults, it is more likely that roles become substitute identities. The amorphous blob of elementary children separates into distinct groups—the geeks, jocks, thespians, musicians, punks, emo kids, mean girls, preps, and church kids. What teenage movie doesn’t riff on the interplay among these groups? Despite what they say, every teen longs to embody a label. We want to be able to make sense of who we are and where we fit in this world.
The hunt for our identity doesn’t stop as adults. We latch onto identifiers. We join Facebook pages, read books and blogs, join clubs, and make friends with those who are like-minded. We hunt for those like us. When we learn someone else has the same quirky tastes, we light up. The two of us appreciate undiscovered music and strategy board games. When we find someone similar, we think, “You’re one of us!”
And so, we identify ourselves by family, marriage, vocation, political party, style, where we grew up or where we live, even by the grocery store we frequent. (Can we get an “Amen,” fellow Trader Joe’s loyalists?)
We assert that making our vocations, our families, our independence, our personalities, or our righteousness into our identities will not sustain us. We will deal with each of these issues in the chapters of Trading Faces.
God has given you valuable roles. But don’t confuse them with your identity. They make poor substitutes that will not satisfy.
Who you are in Christ is unchangeable and nonnegotiable. If and when you experience the transforming work of Christ in your life, you are given new identities that cannot change. Christ offers us multifaceted identities in him. In him we are saints, sons, servants, and much more. Coming to grips with these true identities brings about holistic peace and radical freedom.
To answer the question “Who am I?” is to set the true north of your life. Understanding that your true identities are in Christ allows you to step into being who you were made to be and living how you were designed to live.
So, who is the real you? Which false identities are you tempted to believe are really “you”? Many of these false identities are not bad in and of themselves, but when we allow our roles, groups, or distinctives about ourselves to define who we are, there will be consequences for us.
My wife, Angel, and I have written our forthcoming book Trading Faces: Removing the Masks that Hide Your God-Given Identity to help us identify these false identities and put on the true identities we have in Christ.
We have developed a quiz to help you begin your journey of self-discovery. We would encourage you to take the quiz and pass it along to friends if you find it helpful. Check it out here.