Originally published Tuesday, 10 May 2022.
The words “identity crisis” generally evoke images of a pimple-faced teenager and a middle-aged silver-haired man that seeks comfort in adultery and a new red sports car. This worldly association leads one to believe that identity crisis is largely confined to two occurrences, once in adolescence and then again somewhere between 45 and 60. It is commonly believed that within these periods that the psyche is distressed as one suddenly finds themselves stuck in the midst of questioning who they are. Thus begins the quest to develop a sense of self. After a prolonged period, many assert that the answer can be found in a relationship, a job, or the objects one possesses. I believe the identity crisis is far more widespread and more debilitating than the stereotypes lead one to believe. I think a more accurate portrayal would be the individual living in hidden anguish brought forth by seeking fulfillment in anything else other than Christ (i.e. the curse of the idolator). When one fails to find their true purpose in life, to bring praise and glory to His Kingdom, the weight bears down.
It really wasn’t until a series of events this past year that this 30-something came to this understanding. While reading Tim Keller’s “Counterfeit Gods” I was awakened to the identity crisis I was in. His definition of an idol spoke loudly to me, “…anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”
My heart broke upon reading these words, knowing that I’d dishonored Him in my failing to properly esteem Him. I had some firmly established idols in my life. The most pronounced idols were formed by the relationship I was in at the time and my determination to construct the map and steer my life in the direction I decided it should go. I earnestly prayed to shed the false idols and to find my identity in Him alone. Initially, when I prayed this prayer, I didn’t truly understand what it meant.
Then I opened up Jennie Allen’s book “Anything”, and her words spoke God’s truths just as Keller’s had. In “Anything”, she paints the picture of what it is to have one’s identity in Christ. It is a surrender that is willing to abandon EVERYTHING, to do ANYTHING for God. Instantaneously I tasted the words “I can’t” and shame fell upon me, for it exposed the holes in my faith.
I didn’t want to leave the false security of my idolatrous dreams. And yet I hungered and thirsted for God. I was divided. I wanted to have God in my image. I wrestled like Jacob. And the end result was just the same, I was drawn closer to Christ. The truth of the bigness of my God and the smallness of my idols pervaded the discord. I experienced the grace God mercilessly pours out to us, as undeserving as we are.
I must feed on the gospel habitually, for my identity in Christ is always under attack.
I must dwell on the greatness of my King, for old idols can easily steal back my heart’s affection when my eyes fall short. I must give up my life as I’d like to orchestrate it, to truly find life, life that is eternal and fulfilling. I must let Christ alone define me, and disregard the lies the devil whispers. I must pray fervently for His protection, for without Him I am weak. I must trust Him, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).
I must surrender. My “I must” statements help me to guard against the vast empty pit of discontent from a misplaced identity.
Readers, What threatens your sense of identity? How can you find freedom from the pressures to define yourself?
Kate Franken enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.