Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

The Loss of Identity and the Prison of Self

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 8

I can do all things through Christ. Philippians 4:13

I am born of God and I overcome the world. I John 5:4

Christ’s truth has set me free – John 8:32

In what, in whom do I find my identity?

Is my identity found in my heritage or in my nationality or in my ethnicity?  Is it found in my political persuasion or my education?  Can my identity be found in my sexuality or my gender?  Is it found in my wealth, my work, my success, my abilities or my possessions?  Can I find my identity in who I know or in the approval of significant others?   

Is my identity found in my past losses, my past environment or my past mistakes?  And if I have a sordid past, how is my identity played out in my present life?  Have I used men or women to define me?  Have I used poverty or wealth to define me?  Have I used sickness to describe who I am or have I given in to multiple lies about myself and completely lost any sense of who I am?

For eight years of our lives, my wife and I ran a foster group home for adjudicated teenage boys.  In those eight years, we had many different placements (young men and a few young women).  Some of them truly changed and succeeded and some of them conformed.  What do I mean?

If a foster child simply conformed to the requested set of rules, they were not changing.  They may have succeeded in meeting their court mandate, but they’ll be back in foster care placement in the future.  How do I know that?  Conforming to something does not change one’s heart or one’s identity.  

In the city of Jerusalem there was a pool called Bethesda.  A great number of disabled people were there, the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  There was a man who was an invalid for thirty-eight years at the pool and Jesus approached him one day.  Jesus, knowing his history, asked him an interesting question: “Do you want to get well?”  Jesus didn’t assume anything.  He knew this man was a long-term resident of this place and perhaps received daily care with a meal or two.  It wasn’t the greatest place, but it was a place to live, sleep, eat, have friends and hang out.  

If Jesus heals this man and makes him well, the man will have to pick up his mat and walk out of that place.  You say, “That would be cool.”  Yes, but there is far more to this story than healing.  That same man who was provided for because of his condition will now have to provide for himself.  He’ll have to find a job, leave his friends, cook for himself and, perhaps, provide for his family.  Jesus was asking him the question, “Do you want to be well,” because what he was really asking was, “Do you want to leave this place, provide for yourself by getting a job and leave what you have come to know as a long-term living situation?”

We can change. We can leave the pool because we can do all things through Christ, changing versus just conforming. When Jesus comes into our life to make us well, He does a complete job and His truth will always set us free.

Question for reflection:

As you consider your identity, do you find yourself in the process of change or merely conforming?

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