You Have An Identity. Where’d You Get It?

Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Love Dinner

A few weeks ago, a guy named Barry spoke at Mercy Ships and asked us the following questions:

  • Do you know who you are?
  • When your circumstances collide with your identity, what wins?
  • What are you doing here?
  • Who are you doing it with?

I say he’s a guy named Barry because I Googled him ahead of time to see what kind of Christian hotshot he was, what he’s written, how many Twitter followers he has, you know those important metrics that indicate one is worthy of attention. Here’s all I found:

Barry enjoys people, bikes, bbq, and a really good tomato. Currently, he teaches and facilitates retreats, consults and mentors various non-profits in San Francisco. Barry hopes to spend the rest of his life in San Francisco helping it live up to the name of its patron Saint, St. Francis – as a city on a hill.

Wait, a Christian speaker with no website, no platform and a scrubbed Google profile? Besides this other teacher 2000 years ago, who “ordered them not to make him known,” who does that? Especially since every publishing industry professional says get famous first, then we’ll talk about your book.

Jesus didn’t do it like that.

What Jesus did was show up at a muddy stretch of the Jordan River to be baptized by a guy in camel skins. Before doing anything to earn it, he received his identity then headed right into the wilderness for beta testing. He came out, made some friends, and then he went to the synagogue to teach.

Evidently, even Jesus had to absorb his identity before there was much to write home about.

Barry made me wonder if publishing my book, as a life goal, even matters. If I am awash with the passionate love of God and convinced that I am precious and pleasing even before I do anything fancy, does it matter if “bestselling author” ever modifies my name, like I want it to? Don’t I have what I want already?

“We go looking for identity in mission,” Barry said. “But if your achievements are your identity, you’re only as good as your last success.”

OMG that explains a lot of human behavior doesn’t it?

What I want is to be fully known and loved anyway, and if I choose to believe the gospel, I already have that. So, Barry suggests, whether I’m writing books or cooking spam in West Africa, my vocation is merely the context in which I am transformed into someone interesting and beneficial to those around me. This is also what I want.

“The reward for the process, is the person you get to become,” Barry said.

So what if we believed the gospel without all the mental gymnastics, disclaimers and doubt? What if we believed we actually are passionately loved, clean, holy, purchased and royal? What if we trusted Jesus enough to come to him like children and just follow him, wherever that leads?

What would happen then?


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