As a child, I remember playing pretend games with friends. We would assign roles, make up the rules as we went along, and create our own stories and worlds. I’ve listened the last few weeks as children at my church have been playing pretend games. Each time they start playing, at least one of the children yells, “I know who I am!”
That statement makes me stop and think. Could I say with the same confidence, “I know who I am!” Where is my identity found? Do I find identity in my job and what I do? Am I defined by how I look or dress? In one country song, the artist defines herself by saying,
“I am Rosemary’s granddaughter
The spitting image of my father
And when the day is done my momma’s still my biggest fan
Sometimes I’m clueless and I’m clumsy
But I’ve got friends that love me
And they know just where I stand
It’s all a part of me
And that’s who I am”
Is my family the extent of who I am–the child of divorce, second child of four? Am I the sum total of a list of traits–medium height, blonde hair, blue eyes, Oklahoma accent?
Where we find our identity determines what is important to us, what we will pursue, and how we will live. If my identity is something about me, such as a physical trait or my job, then I will do whatever is necessary to protect those things, and I will take personal offense when you criticize them.
Think of Alice’s conversation with the Caterpillar in chapter 5 of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”:
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’
‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’
‘I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself to begin with;
When our identity is found in things that change, we end up like Alice, unsure of who we are.
What if my identity is not actually about me? What if I found my identity in something outside myself? What difference would it make? If my identity is firmly rooted in God’s acceptance and love for me, then I’m not as affected when things happen at my job or when a person doesn’t like or approve of me or when my family has issues, which they will. Those situations and words will still hurt, but they won’t crush me or cause me to doubt my Heavenly Father’s love for me. I am free to open myself up to others, to invest my life in theirs, because who I am is found outside of me.