How Do You Identify?

Our society has gone more than a little crazy lately, trying to figure out who we are. Much debate has arisen surrounding how people choose to label themselves, and the personal convictions being expressed are as intense as the feelings that lie beneath. In a culture that reveres individual belief as sacred, conclusions regarding personal identity are virtually incontestable. I’m not interested in debating the legitimacy of those conclusions; a million others are arguing passionately about such things, and many have been scorched by the lava that bursts from personal conviction. What fascinates me is the underlying source; the magma that feeds the volcanos of identity-based passion as they spew onto the screens of our computers, phones, and televisions.

The conclusions that some individuals are reaching regarding their identity may seem new and surprising, but the fundamental question is nothing new. Since the birth of humankind, no root issue has caused more turmoil. No underlying concern has fostered more confusion. Though it has been phrased a million different ways, no question has been asked more frequently, or with greater sincerity. What humanity longs to know more than anything else has always been:

Who am I?

If you ask me who I am, I would likely tell you that I am a Department Manager at a local construction firm. I would probably tell you that I am a husband to a fantastic wife, an uncle to a host of precious children, and a friend to many wonderful humans. I may declare – with a twinkle in my eye – that I am a middle-aged man, with an abundance of freckles and a scarcity of hair. Press me to give you more than a surface answer, and I would share my passion to be an ambassador of hope to the broken. But lately, I have wondered if the greatest hint at my identity can be found in the most common response to the question of who I am. When introducing myself to someone, the first thing I utter is – quite profoundly – my name.

What’s in a name? The traditional structure of a name in our society paints a bit of a personal picture. Most people have a first name, a last name, and often a name or two in between. Your first name (and any middle names) can be seen as declaring the personality and values that were desired for you; speaking to what is unique about you and laying out the specifics of who you are intended to be. It is chosen – at least initially – by your parents, and is typically either selected because of its meaning, its association with another person of esteem, or the sentiment in conjures up when you hear it spoken. But your last name is different. Your last name – your official title – declares the family to whom you belong. In most places, your ‘family’ name – by default – is taken from your father.

Remember the story of David and Goliath? David had been holding down three part-time jobs: shepherd to his father’s sheep, personal musician to King Saul, and armor-bearer to the King’s court. Then the Philistine giant, Goliath, stepped into the story. Armed with nothing but a sling and some legendary courage, David stepped up and used a pebble to cement his place in the history books. You have likely heard the story before, but have you ever noticed how it ended? At the conclusion of 1 Samuel 17, King Saul makes an interesting query regarding the newly minted warrior. As David comes before him, still holding the massive decapitated head of the slain Philistine, Saul asks him a very peculiar question. “Whose son are you?”

Don’t forget, Saul already knew who David was… at least on the surface. He was the local shepherd with harp skills that Saul had recruited to bring serenity. He was the impressive young man that Saul had promoted to serve as an armor-bearer in his court. But David had just gotten the King’s attention in a big way, and now Saul wanted to know who David REALLY was. So, he dug as deeply as he knew how, and asked… “Who’s your daddy?”

King Saul was onto something. To really understand who a person is, you must gain an understanding of their context. And nothing fashions context quite like a person’s origin. The best way Saul knew to learn about David’s identity was to discover his pedigree.

It is the same with me. I may be a husband, a manager and a bald, white guy; but none of those labels really get to the heart of who I am. To really understand me, you’ve got to go to my roots. Yes, my earthly father and mother can give you some pretty effective context for understanding where I came from, but if you really want to understand who I am, you should really meet my heavenly Father.

He is the One who chose me and gave me purpose. It is He who has not only given me a reason to live, but partners with me in the journey. Anything I have of value, I ultimately owe to Him.

So how do I identify? In a world that is struggling to know how to define itself, I am peacefully content. You see, I don’t have to struggle to ‘find myself’. Somebody already found me. Somebody decided I was worth a great price. Somebody loved me enough to make me His child and bless me with His riches. Everything else is just details.

Who am I? I am a child of the King of kings. Who is He? Well, I could fill a library telling you about Him, but you wanna know what makes me really grin? He identifies as my Father.

I think that’s pretty cool.

1 Samuel 17; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17

Comments

Posted On
Jul 26, 2017
Posted By
Mark Borzel

Amen!

Years ago, I was set free from a prison of self-delusion, a prison that nearly destroyed my identity. Once freed, I could be who I am… but who is that? That began a many-years-long search, much like you described here. On the physical end of things, the search began with the premise that little children know how to tell lies, but they don’t know how to lie to themselves. They do not know how to NOT be themselves.

But, much like you described, there was more.

My online moniker is Prince Knight. I wear it in Chinese script on my back (to be unique and somewhat mysterious) when I ride Therapy, my motorcycle. But here’s the reasoning for this moniker:

It is my name.

There is Chinese script flanking this name. It reads, “Adopted son of the King, a Knight in training.”

This is how God sees me. This is who I am (among many other things).

Posted On
Jul 27, 2017
Posted By
Esther Woelfle

The most profound realizations are often the simplest. Everything…EVERYTHING in my life and about my life stems from that one thought. Thank you for bringing it back to the foundation – God is my Father. Oh the countless trails of thought that lead from that one statement.

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