|A meaningful passage from my Lent devotional|
by N.T. Wright
Sometimes, when we’re hurt and tired and fearful and fed up, we forget who we are. We forget our identity and who God created us to be, who he calls us to be. In the midst of our humanness, we forget we are God’s children.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his followers to claim their rightful identity—the identity God chose for us when he created us. He calls us to be people who are different from the societies in which we live, different than the fearful, cut-throat cultures we know. He calls us to be loving, peaceful, gentle, forgiving, humble, merciful. But he doesn’t just say to do the right things, to act the right way. Instead, he tells his followers, he tells us, about identity—who we are as his followers.
We’re salt and light. We’re not from here; we’re from heaven. We are valuable to God. We are God’s children.
It’s in light of this identity that Jesus lays out the way we’re to live—a lifestyle that reflects who we are. But the problem is that when life gets hard, when fear and doubt creep in, when we feel valueless, we forget our identity. We begin believing that the fear and the doubt and the anger and the mess ups make us who we are. And our lives begin to reflect this lesser identity.
I watched someone this past week in an identity crisis. In the midst of a trying year, in the midst of fear, he’s forgotten his identity. He’s forgotten who he once believed he was. He’s forgotten who God says he is. And so instead he’s settled into an identity of fear and competitiveness and anger. And it’s heartbreaking.
It’s sent me into a reflective mood, trying desperately to learn from his situation, to take mental notes of what not to do when I reach that place of fear and doubt. I’ve oscillated between anger with who he’s become to fear over what could be in my future. From bitterness over the situation to deep sadness over our fallen world. After all, what kind of world can take a man who earnestly seeks God day after day and turn him into a fearful, angry, spiteful being? What kind of world can take what God has called good and turn it so sour that it’s unrecognizable?
And, even more important, what can I do to stop the world from doing this to me?
Today in a sermon, our pastor spoke about this very issue: identity crisis. He told a story about two men meeting for accountability. When one of them spoke about wanting to get revenge, the other one looked him straight in the eyes and said, “That’s not who you are.”
That’s not who you are.
It struck me, knocking the breath out of my chest.
We all need people in our lives who can remind us who we are—and who we aren’t. To remind us that God’s children, the salt and light of the world, people whom God values, would never
Hold on to bitterness
Take advantage of others
Live enslaved to fear
Intentionally hurt others
Laugh at another’s expense
Hoard rather than share
Refuse to forgive
Hold others back
Because otherwise we’ll forget. And we’ll fail. And we’ll do all of these things and more. And we’ll hurt others, and we’ll hurt ourselves. And we’ll hurt God.
And we won’t be able to live the abundant life, to live out our callings.
I’m thankful for people in my life who can remind me who I am, and I pray that God will continue to show me my identity and how to live up to my calling.