Mufasa’s Ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become…
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.
Mufasa’s Ghost: Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.
-the Lion King (1994)
Isn’t it interesting how something so intangible can have such a hold on our lives?
We all share a common goal to find our identity. Even as we pursue other dreams and aspirations, ultimately everyone strives to find who they are in this great big world. We search and define ourselves by the things we have accomplished or are working towards, by where we’ve come from or where we want to go, by our family, by our friends, by the people who like us (or don’t like us), by who we love, by those who love (or don’t love) us. We tend to define ourselves and find our value through all the things visibly effective in our lives.
But I don’t think identity is something we “find“. I’ve come to believe that my identity was given to me and that my goal should instead be remembering, embracing, and investing in that identity. And in doing so, I would discover how my identity fits into my specific existence in the world at this point in time. Then I can–and will–act in service through this God-given identity.
At a young age, I was blessed to have influences in my life that affirmed my identity. They reminded me that I am a fearfully and wonderfully made creation of God (Ps. 139:14). I am a child of God (Eph. 1:5). I am a new creation in Christ and an ambassador for Christ (II Cor. 5:17, 20). I am a part of the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27), the light of the world, and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14). I knew that this identity was given to me before I was even conceived, when I was still a mere concept in God’s magnificent mind and a twinkle in my parents’ eyes. I knew these things, and yet I didn’t understand until recently that “predestined identity” means that it’s something I’ve had all along.
As life continued on and the world had more direct interaction with me, I subconsciously began permitting myself to think that society and the people around me contributed to my identity with the terms they used to describe me. Nice. Smart. Naive. Sweet. Sheltered. Pretty. Tomboy. Short. Cute. Curious. Nosy. Assertive. Bossy. Determined. Wishy-washy. Weird. Mundane. Liberal. Conservative. Complicated. Predictable. Etc. Some of these are God-given traits, a way that God displays my identity, but they don’t define me. I let all those other things cover up the original definition of me–which is not defined by my character traits, but by God’s being and His living in me.
But…I’m a sinner in a world encompassed by sin, and sin did what it could to tell my story. I constantly have to remind myself, “Sin is not the story; it is the blight on the story. Sin distorts everything, perverts everything, and corrupts everything” (Paul Marshall, Heaven is Not My Home). Sin could try to tell it, but the One who started it is the One I want to keep telling it, and the One I want to finish it.
My first couple years of college, I had stopped investing in and reinforcing the identity God gave me. I got distracted with the wonders of life. I had let my eagerness to live and learn out in the incredible world overwhelm my days. In turn, I didn’t spend time in the quiet place where I could decompress and completely realign to God. In the end, when my world changed drastically, I felt paralyzed. I tried to reset, but my circumstances left me afraid to be myself because I was having a hard time even seeing who I used to be. I was uncomfortable, and I had shriveled up in fear.
But the Lord is faithful and merciful. He has surrounded each of us by a cloud of witnesses that have seen and can see our true identity. Once I turned my eagerness to live and learn back to living and learning about God’s predestined will for me, He sent me reminders of my identity from before I took my detour, through my cloud of witnesses and through His word. I’m not who I used to be–a bright-eyed incoming freshman who felt like the world was her oyster. I’m not who I was–an mesmerized underclassmen who ended up lost and weeping. I’m a soon-to-be graduate student on my way towards that abundant, beautiful mystery of a future appointed for me. I’m nowhere near where I used to be. And I’m nowhere near where I’m going to be. But God’s reminding me of that pure joy and childlike wonder that He wants me to preserve on this journey. He knows I’m yearning for it.
Now I bear little resemblance to the king I once was.
I bear little resemblance to the king I could become.
Maybe paper is paper, maybe kids will be kids-
Lord, I want to remember how to feel like I did.
(East – Sleeping at Last)
So here I stand, harnessing the reality that the definition of my existence was instilled in me from above before I even began to live. This identity is the piece of the portrait of Jesus that I’m called to carry out. God appointed it to me before the world had any part of my development. With that being the case, why would I even try to find my identity anywhere else?
May God awaken in you the identity He appointed to you and may He surround you with those that reassure you of this true identity. I pray that you are reminded of who you are in God; that you can take hold of and discover where God wants to use that unique and marvelous identity. Remembering Whose we are and letting that relationship define us is the only identity that matters.
Joy and remembrance unto you.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
Hebrews 12:1 NIV