Written by Leah Grey
Who am I?
What am I here for?
What is my purpose?
Have you ever thought those things? Spoken them aloud? There are rows of books, both new and old, waiting to answer this question for you. Many are written by expert psychologists, neurologists, motivational speakers, celebrity pastors, and the like. Yet, after spending $14.95 on a book, you may find you’re no closer to the answer than you were before. Not to worry, there will always be another book, podcast, or self-help guide poised and ready to tell you who you are and who you should be.
Our 21st century society is obsessed with identity. Labels such as Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, working mother or retiree are commonplace.
Even our names are descriptions of who we are. Take parents, for example, who carefully give their children names with definite meanings. Andrew? He is going to be “strong and manly,” William is a “protector,” and Neil is a “champion.” What if they grow up and Andrew is a scrawny little thing which gets beat up on the playground every day and has an affinity for salmon-coloured button-downs? (We all know salmon is not a manly colour.) William? Drug addict. Nobody is getting any help from him. And Neil? Poor Neil. Neil loses everything. They even forgot his participation medal in grade five.
My brother’s name is Neil. While his name means champion, mine means “weary, cow eyes.” And for much of my life, I believed it.
Self-help books often try to help us by fitting us into a label. If you’re a perfectionist, you’re a number one on the Enneagram test; you have an unspoken fear of being corrupt and evil and your basic desire in life is to have integrity. I took the Enneagram test multiple times and had a three-way tie each time with two other numbers very close behind. What’s the experts’ response to that? I’m either very balanced or lack self-awareness. If you ask me, we are all goingoverboard with this identity nonsense!
Let’s strip our labels away and look at what the Bible says. Do you know who God says you are? Not a mom. Not a Christian. Not Caucasian. Not a winner or a loser. Not a teacher. Who are you?
Let me give you a personal example.
I was a single mother after becoming pregnant at 21. As I was in post-secondary school, becoming pregnant changed my future. Four years later, I married my husband. Shortly after our nuptials, I became pregnant again. This time, I was excited. Until my husband went missing, three days later. This began an exhausting period of him battling addiction while I became “the wife of an addict.”
I told my husband he ruined my life. I walked around bitter and angry for several years, blaming him for all the terrible things he had done to me as “the wife of an addict.” I don’t mean to minimize how difficult it was. His addiction was the most challenging situation I have ever been through. But my husband didn’t ruin my life, I ruined it. I was the one who was complaining, angry, overwhelmed, and stopped living. It was hard not to! I allowed the state of my husband’s mental health to say something about who I was. His label became my label. His battle became who I was.
If we threw away this idea of identity and returned to how we were as young children, we wouldn’t define ourselves by our cultural backgrounds, sexual preferences, or employers. It’s relatively primitive, actually; he’s kind, she’s mean. He shared, she didn’t. He played with me, she stole my toy. He peed on the tree that one time at recess.
Just like cliques in elementary school, the labels we give and accept don’t matter.
Who are you? A child of God. What are you here for? You were created. What is your purpose? Does art need a purpose? At the end of the day, we all want to find somewhere to belong. But sadly, most of us don’t realize that we already did.
We would do well to stop romanticizing our identities. In truth, they divide us, they don’t give us meaning. Be kind. Share. Play with one another. Don’t pee on trees. I feel these are the measures God will use when we see Him (excluding the bathroom shenanigans). It’s so simple. Stop trying to figure it out and be a good child (wait, is that my inner Type One speaking?).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
I didn’t reconcile being the wife of an addict to “find myself.” I chose not to spend the rest of my life telling myself who my husband was and how he would hurt me. I ran to my Father for help, focused on being a good daughter, and He did not let me down. My husband turned to God too, and all glory be to Him because he was saved.
When I hear people talk about identity, all that comes to mind for me are labels, segregation, and division. Sadly, human beings have been dividing one another based on “who they are” for all of history. Think, Nazi Germany, the Rwandan genocide, African American slavery, Indigenous residential schools, Egyptian slavery. These are all identity-related tragedies.
Please, for the sake of our humanity, let’s set aside this idea of identity already. If you go through something difficult like I did, God is not allowing it so you can find yourself, He allows it so you find Him.
Who is He?
What is He here for?
What is His purpose?
Figure that out, and you’ll know exactly who you are.