Some people say finding your identity is discovering “you”; it’s the greatest adventure in life to discover “you.” And they’re not wrong. Identity is important because it describes ones view of themselves; it’s what shapes how you approach life, which results in what you will chose to be committed to in life. So what is your identity?
There is an ancient Indian story that tells of six blind men who attempted to describe an elephant based on what part of the elephant they were examining with their hands. The 1st felt the leg and decided the elephant was a pillar. The 2nd touched the tusk and determined it was a solid pipe. The 3rd grabbed the tail and proclaimed it to be nothing more than rope. The 4th suggested he was feeling the thick branch of a tree after feeling the trunk. The 5th felt the belly of the elephant and argued that it was a wall. And the 6th found the ear of the elephant and said it was a big hand fan. In the end, a man blessed with sight enters and sees the whole picture that it was, in fact, an elephant.
All of those men were right. The elephant did have all of those features. But when you add all of those features together – the long trunk, the thick tusks, the large ears, and the rough tail – you have the full picture: an elephant.
This story is often used to describe our need to see the big picture, but when talking about our identity we can’t just back up and look at ourselves in 3rd person. That’s just not possible. Only God is able to see the complete picture, both of our life timeline and us. But often, we make the mistake of finding our identity without realizing that in our blindness we have seen only a tiny part of the big picture.
For example, someone may play a sport really well so they finds their identity in the fact that they are an athlete. Another might be really pretty and therefore find their identity in external appearance. Still someone else may be gifted musically so they search for glory in where they can excel. The problem is, this is such an incomplete picture. Those are all just one thing that stands out about them and they cling to it. They glory in the one “good thing” about them and place they’re worth in it. But is that really what our identity is? Are we really just one good thing? We can get so caught up in petting our strength or flaunting the gifts we have so that when everything is going smoothly, we are happy. But when we meet friction – injury, finances, loss, or a setback of some kind – we can so easily begin to feel a sense of being lost and question our worth. After all, you had put everything into that and now it was gone.
This passage warns us about putting our treasure here on this earth. And that’s essentially what we are prone to do. Not only with possessions, but also with the idols we create. What we identify ourselves as can so easily become an idol in our lives.
But the rest of that verse tells us to lay our treasure up in heaven. Just as we won’t be happy with earthly things that pass away, we won’t be satisfied with where we are in ourselves if we constantly look for the next fulfillment here on earth. We can get wrapped up in being popular or amazing here on earth or we can seek eternity.
1 Peter 2:9-10
“…for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
What is wrong with finding your identity in the things that you can do, the way you look, the friends you hang out with, or so on? For starters, everything I just mentioned in that sentence can be taken away from you. Someday you may no longer be the athlete you once were. What you see as “good looks” may change. Arthritis may set in and you will no longer be able to play music with the ability you once had. But your actual identity, the part of you that truly and accurately describes who you are at the core of your being, cannot change. Your true identity is in Christ, your creator. He made a “you” that is unique. He gave you talents and gifts that are special to you, yes, but He also made more than just those “one good things” we can so easily decipher or single out. He sees the full picture and planned the “you” He wants from before the beginning of time. But it’s not until we begin to understand what it means to find our identity in Christ.
What does that mean? It’s like the verse in Matthew was saying. We are placing our worth in heaven, but not only in Heaven and in the work of eternity, but in Christ Who is heaven. We are choosing to fill our hearts from the well of Christ and seeking for Him to complete us. And the more we search and drive after that, the more we became molded into the “me” Christ made us to be.