I recently listened to a talk by Lisa Cotter, titled “Real Womanhood.” She recounted who the culture has told women to be over the past five decades: the domestic woman with a whisk in one hand and an iron in the other; the business woman, wearing shoulder pads and pantsuits to appear more manly; the “equal” woman breaking glass ceilings, the feminine woman able to balance it all while donning a flowing skirt and a smile. If we were to conform with who the culture tells us to be as women, we’d change our identity every 10-15 years!
I’ve done that a few times in my life. I’ve changed my “identity” through hair style, clothing choices, how and with whom I spent my time; done in an effort to feel a sense of belonging, to feel accepted and loved.
And it worked, I suppose. The people I wanted to impress did like me, and invited me into their social circles. So why wasn’t I satisfied? Truthfully, the love and acceptance of a thousand people won’t satisfy if I do not love and accept myself.
So Who Am I?
The real answer to our identity question, is found in God’s eternal truths, not in current cultural norms or others’ expectations. I am who He says I am:
I am chosen (1 Peter 2:9).
I am wanted (Psalm 139:13-16).
I am loved (1 John 4:9).
I am made in God’s own image, wow! (Genesis 1:27).
I am intimately known by Him (Jeremiah 1:5).
One of the enormous spiritual tasks we face is to claim these eternal truths about our identity, allowing them to penetrate the depths of our hearts and change the way we live our lives. We must align our daily behavior, our daily thoughts, to Truth, putting more weight on what God thinks of me than on what the world thinks of me.
Father Henri Nouwen, author of many wonderful books including my favorites, Life of the Beloved, preached three dangerous lies we tend to believe about who we are:
I am what I do. When I do good things, achieve and accomplish, I feel good about myself. When I “fail”, become ill, or grow older and can’t ‘do’ at the same rate to the same degree, I feel less than, depressed, unworthy.
I am what others say about me. If I am well liked and well thought of, I walk around feeling free. If someone doesn’t like something about me or something I’ve done, I feel self-conscious and anxious.
I am what I have. I have a good family, a good education, I have good health. Until I lose some. If a family member dies, if I lose my health, my job or my possessions, I can slip into darkness.
Nouwen is well-known for speaking and writing about countering these lies by claiming the truth of who we are: Beloved.
I am beloved when others praise me or reject me.
I am beloved when I succeed and when I fail.
I am beloved in sickness and in health.
I am beloved because that’s who God says I am. Nothing on earth will ever change this truth of my identity.
Let us stop searching for our identity “out there” somewhere. Let us stop defining ourselves based on people, possessions or popularity. I realize in our culture of social networks, this can be a difficult task, though one well worth the effort. We can affect huge positive impact on our lives by engaging in two simple steps each day:
- We claim the truth of who we are every morning by saying, “In the name of Jesus, I claim my true identity as Beloved of God.” Repeat often throughout the day.
- We reject anything contradictory to this truth – every critical thought that pops into my head, every temptation to feel jealous, rejected or less than – by saying, “In the name of Jesus, I reject every lie and every contradiction to Your Truth that may attempt to influence me today. Thank you Jesus for keeping me secure in Your Truth.” Repeat often throughout the day.
Write these lines on an index card or type them into the notes on your phone. Keep them somewhere that you have easy, frequent access to them. And read them to yourself often. And then be still and let the Lord carve His truths into your heart and your mind.
You are…I am…We are the beloved daughters of God.