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First there was Bruce Jenner and his identity change to “Caitlyn.” Then there was Rachel Dolezal, the woman who identifies as black even though both of her parents are white. Finally, the Supreme Court voted to make same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states.
For the past month the news has including a story about people either changing their identity or celebrating the legality of their identity.
With each of these stories, there is a common thread. It’s obvious that as a culture we are struggling with our identity. This is nothing new, really. One of the questions every person asks him or herself is “Who am I?” Often times our identity corresponds to the latest trend or culture’s expectations because we don’t believe that our identity is already established. For Christians, our identity is established in Jesus.
However, as a culture we’re not asking, “Who am I?” as readily any more. It doesn’t really matter who we are because we have the ability to choose whoever we want to be. So instead of asking, “Who am I?” we’re asking, “Who do I want to be?”
The Sovereignty of God in Our Identity
This seems like a liberating question. One that brings freedom and choice. Although living in a culture with so much freedom and choice is a blessing, when we take that freedom outside of the sovereignty of God great bondage to sin occurs.
We have become so accustomed to the personal rights our judicial system defends that we’re now uncomfortable with anything we can’t control – anything given to us by God as a permanent stamp of who He created us to be. Instead of accepting these characteristics as a byproduct of God’s sovereignty, we legislate them to make our world fit the answers we want to the question “Who do I want to be?”
Even with living in a country with vast freedoms, there are parts of our personhood that were given to us by God, in His divine wisdom and for His purposes, and that cannot be changed. Our gender, which determines our sexuality, is one example. Our ethnicity, family of origin, and the time in history in which we live are some others. We can try to change these characteristics God has given us, and from the outside it may seem as if we succeeded, however, in God’s eyes we remain the person He created.
We attribute battles with our identities to the question, “Who am I?” but really we know who we are. We just don’t like it. Or it’s uncomfortable. Or we don’t feel like who we’re made to be. But it is God who is our Creator. We did not create ourselves, and therefore we cannot recreate ourselves.
It’s All About Pride
The shift from asking, “Who am I?” to “Who do I want to be?” assumes that most people know who they are. They have surveyed that question and settled on the results. Now people are trying to figure out how they want to live out those results.
The sin at the root of the question “Who do I want to be?” is pride – making us gods over our lives. Life is no longer about God’s purposes through us but our purposes for ourselves.
Instead of asking, “Who do I want to be?” we should ask, “Who does God want me to be?”
As Christians the answers to “Who am I?” explains our identity in Christ whereas the answers to “Who does God want me to be?” explains our identity for Christ. We are humbled by the fact that our lives are not about us. They are about Jesus and what He wants to do in and through us to accomplish His purposes.
Asking God “Who Do You Want Me to Be?”
Issues of gender identity or racial identity may be extreme scenarios for you. However, we all struggle with the question, “Who do I want to be?” through the everyday nuances of life when there is tension between our selfish nature and sacrificially living for Jesus.
After I got married at 32 years old, I remember going to a friend’s bachelorette party a few months later. We went to a trendy restaurant in Atlanta, the city where I used to live, and I remember it being odd that I was now married. I didn’t feel married. I still felt single. If you’ve been single for any length of time you know that men and women alike are very conscious of other single people, especially in trendy restaurants in big cities. For a second I had to remind myself that I was now married. It took me deliberately reminding myself of this fact because “married woman” did not yet feel a part of my identity even though it was.
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In contrast to gender identity or racial identity that God chooses for us, I chose marriage. God did not give it to me at birth. However, I still had to choose to accept my identity as a married woman. I could have easily convinced myself that marriage didn’t feel comfortable, it didn’t come naturally, and therefore I should not have married. I could have then divorced my husband and become single again. But as a Christian, that would not have been a response that honored the sovereignty of God.
Throughout our lives we represent different identities, some through personal choice. Marriage and parenthood are two of the most obvious, but there are others – employee, daughter, sister, friend, citizen, volunteer, and disciple of Jesus. Even on days when my answer to the question, “Who do I want to be?” is “Not a (fill in the blank)!” I have to accept that in God’s sovereignty He appointed me to that position. He made that a part of my identity for the present time. Therefore, I do not have the right to make it about me. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.
Instead of asking, “Who do I want to be?” let’s start asking, “Who does God want me to be?” Addressing our identity questions by focusing on God will help us to make better decisions and live more fulfilled and peaceful lives in Him.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.