As part of my goals for the year, I decided to go through the bible in a single year which has gone fairly well. Additionally, I wanted to write a blog each week to talk about things I’m learning or relearning or seeing with new eyes. It is now March and this is the first blog entry of the year… Clearly that has gone less well. This is what happens so many times with our goals and resolutions right? We have great intentions out of the gate, but suddenly lose steam or life happens or we get distracted by other desires and we’re suddenly off our intended course. The interesting truth is, for many of us, our dedication to our resolutions seems to mirror the beginning of scripture.
The bible begins with this beautiful creation and this intimate and wonderful relationship with God. It is a picture where longings don’t exist because they are fulfilled in abundance with God. It is a place where the relationship between humankind and creation is in perfect balance and the relationship between husband and wife flourishes vibrantly. Yet amid this, there lies a temptation. A temptation to find our value and worth in other things and other places. It is the temptation to find fulfillment in things other than God, to find our worth and value in the things of the created world. These become the false and inadequate identities that we carry with us through life. It is these that create those inner longings.
As I was reading the early passages of Genesis again, I was struck by a curious fact. In Genesis 1, we hear God say that humankind is made in the image of God. In other words, we as humans bear God’s image to the world, we are like God. Yet, the serpent makes this bold claim concerning the tree in the center of the Garden. He says that it will make us “like God.” It is subtle. The serpent is creating doubt in the hearts of humankind. It makes us question ourselves and our true identity as image-bearers. Are we really like God or are we perhaps lacking in some area? When we view the creation story in this fashion we realize that we are not so far removed from it. These are the very doubts and questions that we wrestle with daily, “Am I enough? Do I measure up? Am I worthy of love? Is there something that I’m lacking?” These questions, these doubts, nag at us and often cause us to respond, they get us to desire things that we don’t need on the off-chance that they might be what we’re looking for. They cause us to prioritize things as urgent and important because when we do them, we will be made whole and valuable. They cause us to put off writing a blog for 2+ months because the other things are “more important.”
It is unfortunately the story of humanity isn’t it? We search for those things that will somehow make us happier or will offer us fulfillment. After Adam and Eve eat of the fruit, the next several chapters point to a continued striving after false identities. It descends quickly into evil things and pride enters in so that people consider nobody but themselves. Yet, in the end, none of these things are truly satisfying. We can look at the world today and see this truth in the lives of many. Despite having everything, there are many who continue to live dissatisfied lives. We pursue things for our ends and are confused when they don’t work out or that they don’t fulfill us like we thought they would. The reality is that we need to remember our true identity is image bearers of God. That is where true fulfillment and contentment is found. As St. Augustine put it, “Our hearts are restless until we find rest in thee.”
Strategies for removing false identities
So what do we do? How do we recover our identity as image-bearers? How do we “find rest in God”? Here are some things that have helped me over the years.
- Mentors – This is the number one thing that I have found to be helpful. By having a mentor that knows you, they’re able to sense when you are pursuing something out of pride or selfishness. My mentors have been that constant source of guidance that have enabled me to get a good idea of when I’m pursuing my own ends rather than pursuing God.
- Journaling – This is one of those spiritual disciplines that can be a challenge for some, but I have found that when I’m journaling, I’m able to be honest with my feelings. I’m able to figure out where those feelings are coming from and the more I probe them the more I realize how often they come from a place of insecurity or my own pride. So much happens during the day that processing it in the moment is a challenge, journaling slows it down and aids the process.
- Giving – I don’t write a lot on giving, because let’s face it it’s one of those sensitive issues that people seem to react strongly against. Yet in this context it is a powerful discipline because it forces us to find our faith outside of our income or our time. it forces us to have faith in God’s provision. It also limits our ability to have faith in things outside of God.
- Daily time with God – This is one of those things that I could repeat in every single post. When we put ourselves before God we become aware of our truest identity. We recognize that we are God’s children and that he is well pleased with us. I know that when my time in scripture is consistent and my prayer life is doing well, I find that the other identities have less hold on me which leads to a more abundant life.
We can’t afford to let false identities go unchecked. If we do, they will continue to draw us further and further away from our truest identity as children of God. It will require honest and open reflection in our lives and the assurance that God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us unconditionally. When we rest in that identity, we begin to find the strength and will to help others do the same.