I just sat through a weeklong intensive for my Fuller Doctor of Ministry Program on the Psychosocial and Spiritual Development of Adolescents. It was fascinating and intellectually exhausting. We talked about a lot of really in-depth and important things, but there was one thing that stood out to me as being the simplest yet hardest concepts of the week.
Identity. Who am I? This is the most significant question we can ask ourselves today. And most of us have no clue how to answer it. According to Henri Nouwen, (you should all read his book “In the Name of Jesus”) we answer it in one of three ways:
I am what I do (Ambition)
I am what I control (Lust)
I am what others say about me (Pride)
We constantly subject ourselves to forces outside of our control. We can never sufficiently answer this question of “Who am I” when we seek to answer it in one of these three ways – based on others and cultural circumstances. They reinforce an identity based on a second love.
But the truth is our identity is quite simple: I am the beloved child. Loved. Enjoyed. Before I did anything.
Before I messed anything up.
Before I did anything brilliant.
Before I made something of myself.
Before I impressed all those people.
Before I made any money.
Before I lost it all.
Before the addiction.
Before the recognition.
Before the divorce.
Before the promotion.
Before the kids.
Before all the surgeries and cool clothes and fake glasses and make up and….before.
It’s so simple. But it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever learn to grasp. To rest in an identity of being rather than doing. Of growing rather than achieving. Of trusting in God’s love rather than proving my own goodness.