That's not only how we view other people, though. Because our society identifies people like this, we also begin looking inward & try to determine who we ourselves think we are. A lot of people probably pick out which category they want to be identified by (career, wealth, possessions, outward appearance) and then spend their life trying to achieve that goal. Some work 80 or more hours every week & neglect their families to position themselves for the next promotion. Some try every "nutritional" supplement on the market & starve themselves in order to reach the physical standard they have in their mind. It becomes very easy for us to be driven by the way we desire other people to identify us.
I've recently realized that this is something I've been inwardly struggling with for a little while now. Not so much that I'm driven by a certain category previously mentioned...but more in a sense that for the last few months I have felt like a huge part of my identity is now gone. A very significant piece of what I thought was my identity is no longer there, and now I feel like it has left a gaping hole in who I am. When I sit down & think about the question "who am I" or "what is my identity" ... If I was honest, lately I would have to say I don't really know for sure. I don't have a glamorous job or career. I'm really not even proud of the company I work for, but it is a stable job that provides a paycheck & for that I'm thankful. I don't have wealth or any great material possessions of which to brag about or "hang my hat on." There obviously aren't any well-known, groundbreaking accomplishments attached to my name. My feelings lately have been that I'm just a guy...living in an apartment...working 40 hours a week...just existing.
And it's when I get to the "heights of my depths" so to speak, that God uses His Word to slap me in the face & wake up. Our society makes it so easy to get caught up in trying to "boast" in ourselves; to think that I need to go & "find myself" when in reality - there is nothing about my "flesh" that I should boast in, or find my identity in. The apostle Paul talks in Philippians about how if anyone had a right to be confident in their flesh, or their earthly accomplishments, it was him. Externally, he hit all the marks. He followed all the rules & traditions. He was in the top tier of society as a Pharisee - a religious leader of that time. But once He met Jesus & allowed Him to change his life, he realized that all of those things meant nothing. At the very least, my identity is this: I was dead & now I'm alive (Ephesians 2:1-6). The moment I placed my faith & trust in Jesus - the moment I confessed my sins to Him & believed that He died in my place to offer me forgiveness and remove the wrath of God from my life - I received my true identity. The only identity that should really matter & shape my life. I became a child of God (John 1:12). And once I am a child of God, Romans tells me that I am also considered an heir of God - more than that, a fellow heir with Christ! (Romans 8:16-17)
So what exactly does this mean for me right now? If my true identity is that I am a child of God & a fellow heir with Christ, this means that the last thing I should be worried about, concerned with, or consumed by is the question of, "Who am I?" The question of "How do people see me?" Because my life is no longer about me. In fact, it's not even my life.
- Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
- Colossians 3:2-3 - "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - " ...You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
All of these things are a whole lot easier to talk & write about than they are to live out. But one thing I have come to learn is that the struggle is definitely worth it...because as the band Tenth Avenue North says, "We are free to struggle, but we're not struggling to be free."