What is identity? How do we discover our identity? And what does it means to be identified in and through Christ Jesus?
What is identity exactly?
The dictionary meaning states that identity is: being who or what a person or thing is; or a close similarity or affinity; character or personality. Then deeper meanings are: who you are; the way you think about yourself; how you are viewed by the world and characteristics that define you. There are also markers that identify us physically: name, date of birth, parents, address, and gender. An interesting thought popped into my mind, that a common crime now is called identity theft, and this happens when people take those identifying things and use them without your permission. But the reality is that no one can steal your identity – not even yourself!
So where or how do we receive our identity?
Our character is shaped by where we grow up; the country, city, or town; education; and if we have a good, difficult or traumatic home life. If we are accepted at school, home or work. If we accept ourselves. This is a multi-faceted thing that is so complex, but these give you a sense of what shapes us, our belief systems, and therefore, our identity.
For me I had placed several labels on myself to identify who I was – some were to help me feel better, others were not, and they were ever-changing: ugly, unloved, victim, artist, wife, associate diploma in accounting, rejected, failure, divorced, unlovable and alone. When I became a Christian, I was at my lowest. The amazing thing was that instead of putting new labels on top of these that had defined my belief in myself, Jesus helped me to empty the stuff that had been placed on me (either by myself or others) and replaced them with healthy truths from the bible to identify with this new person that I had become through Jesus. I replaced the old labels with truths like I am loved, beautiful, worthy, honoured, and a treasured daughter.
Exodus 19:5 - “For you are my treasured possession”
Have you heard of salvation in Jesus?
It is the process that happens when we accept Jesus to enter into our life, through a heart decision to turn away from a life orphaned from God and be adopted as sons and daughters into His family with Father God. Jesus died on the cross to remove the separation from the Father because of our sin or wrong actions.
I remember someone saying that a large percentage of a female’s self-worth and identity is formed through her relationship with her earthly father. If this relationship is flawed, then her self-esteem and character can be also. Through a relationship with Father God, this can be restored and transformed. You come to understand the love of the Father is in who He is, because He gave His Son to help us out of compassion so that we are not apart from Him anymore. How good is that!
Matthew 5:48 - “For I am a perfect Father”
Matthew 7:11 - “I offer you more than an earthly father could”
I went through various stages, largely due to trauma, that I rejected myself. It was only when I started to look at myself through God’s eyes in scriptures, that I started to find self-worth, confidence, and peace. He helped me to see the false identity that I had placed on myself. He helped me to understand that trauma and pain in my life were circumstances, and not WHO I was. He made me who I am, and no one can actually change the core of who I am – not even myself!
Psalm 139 - "He searches you and knows you, made you wonderfully, as well He knitted you in your mother’s womb."
How beautiful is that picture – no mistakes there! For me, forgiveness was one of the keys that unlocked how I have learned to accept love and give it out, not rely on what I do to validate my value but instead recognise who I am.
He often puts people around us that see us how He does. What happens is, this can shake our belief systems, because you realise that what you have been believing about yourself, is so different from how they see you. I am not talking about complimenting someone on their shirt – but real stuff like caring, honest, loving, kind and giving, etc.
Let’s go back to one of the definitions
Identity is to have a close similarity and affinity to someone. To draw closer to God, through a relationship with Jesus, means we become similar to Him. This is why scripture can help us because we learn who the Father is through His Son. When we understand that we are loved and accepted by God, we can begin the process of removing the incorrect labels we put on ourselves. We start loving and accepting ourselves in who He says we are and to be.