“Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”
– Buckaroo Banzi
“Well, who are you?”
– The Who
Often during the first 3 years here in Dublin, I would tell people that there were two key thing I learned in moving to Dublin. The first had to do with grace (I’m still working on that post) and the second having to do with identity.
- When I was in Ithaca, I had certain things that helped to define who I was.
- I was the founding pastor of one of the larger churches in our city.
- I was a chaplain at an Ivy League university.
- I had held several leadership positions.
- I had a respectable family.
- I even had a credit score of over 800.
Then I moved to Ireland.
- As I’ve shared previously, my older kids had a difficult transition. And we struggled with who we were as parents.
- My ministry resume meant nothing…I was another American who moved to Ireland and hadn’t done anything.
- And I had no credit score. I had to pay a €500 security deposit to turn on my electricity and a €150 deposit for mobile phone service. I couldn’t even get my name on a bank account for more than a month…I had to ask Liz whenever I needed some money.
- Oh yeah, and the churches we came to work with flat out told us, “we wish you hadn’t come.”
I mean, come on, I’d had jaw surgery and didn’t even look the same anymore.
“Who am I, and why am I here?”
– Admiral James Stockdale
I wasn’t comparing myself to Job, but I could relate to the feeling of losing nearly everything.
So, yeah, you could say there was a bit of an identity crisis.
It was in the midst of that season, that I read the book Building a Discipling Culture, by Mike Breen. (As a result of that, I joined a coaching network that really helped me make it through that next year.)
But even more importantly, I learned something about identity. If you had asked me, I would have told you, “of course, we are to find our identity in Christ.” I know that…But my identity was very clearly wrapped up in other things…and none of them were bad things. They were just all things that could disappear as fast as they showed up. And for the most part, had.
In BDC, Breen writes about Jesus going to be baptized by John and hearing his Father say,
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
– John 3:22
It is important that this was spoken to Jesus before he began his public ministry. He didn’t earn this identity from God…His identity did not flow from what he did…his ministry flowed from his identity.
So, that means my identity does not flow from what I do…I don’t need to earn it with the Father…and regardless of what external circumstances look like…my identity is unchanged (as long as it is based on him).
Back to Jesus…immediately after the baptism the Holy Spirit sends him into the wilderness. And during the temptation in the wilderness, two of the three temptations we read begin with the phrase, “if you are the Son of God.”
The temptation, along with everything else it represents, was an attack on his identity. An attack on the words that his Father had just spoken to him.
The Father says, “you are my son.”
The enemy says, basically…”did God really say?”
One of the main ways the enemy comes after us is by attacking our identity in Christ?
“You really think God could love you?”
“With all that you’ve done, how could God ever use you.”
And on and on…you get the idea.
This was huge for me. It is one thing to know something as true…say, “My identity is in Christ.” It is another thing to experience it in a way that changes you.
It is natural to worry about what other people think. To be concerned about how they view you as a success or a failure. I don’t know if we can ever fully escape that. But the more that we can allow our identity to be grounded in who we are in Christ…the more we can allow our identity to be grounded in what the Father says about us…the better off we are.
And again…you probably know this. But here’s hoping you know it.
Also published on Medium.