Written by Shawn Naylor
Many of us live with stress and frustrations due to the identities we assume for ourselves, because the identity we create for ourselves must also be maintained. We do it to gain a better position in society. But from my experience that often leads to disappointment and regret, because the identity, destiny, and purpose we choose conflict with what God placed upon us.
When I was young, I tried to be a self-constructed version of “black.’’ I modelled all the things I observed from media outlets, movies, and TV shows. Often, the messages I received on what it meant to be a real “black” person involved distrust for authority, criminal activity, being overly guarded, intimidating, and unapproachable. I became a resident in a self-built prison made up of this forced, false identity.
It all gave me misplaced frustration against the world, because it didn’t seem to work. I thought the world was doing me wrong.
This is not a new phenomenon. As long as people have been on this earth, they have tried to construct their own identities without an eternal perspective. This only produces self-imprisonment. Such people can be found in the book of Jeremiah. The people of God, the Israelites, find themselves in bondage and exile, as a result of living a false identity absent of God. They built their own prison. But through the prophet Jeremiah, God speaks and provides three things.
First, God reminds them His love has been and always will be; it is for their own sake and nothing else. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Second, God tells them who decides their identity. “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!” (Jeremiah 31:4).
Third, God tells them where they can find their identity. “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 31:6).
In Christ we are found because we come face to face with the One who provides our unaltered identity. God in His mercy guides us back to who we actually are.
You might be asking yourself: How will I know that I’m living out my identity? In that same passage I quoted above, God tells us what life will be like if we live smack dab in the middle of our true identity. “Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit” (Jeremiah 31:5).
The thought here is that even in our labour and the struggle of day-to-day living, we will find satisfaction. I believe this to be right for two reasons. First, because I no longer have to maintain “being” black; I am child of God. This distinction is not based on age, skin colour, or sex. Second, because hidden away in my identity is my destiny. If my identity is in Christ, then my destiny can never be hindered or frustrated into non-existence.
If God has given us our identity, no door He opens can be closed, no matter who stands in our way.