A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work at a girl’s boarding school where I met some beautiful young women. Actually, they were all beautiful, but some hadn’t quite figured that out yet.
As is to be expected, when not in uniform the girls would opt to wear the latest fashion trends. And like teens the world over, they would do anything to avoid that fate worse than death: being ostracised by their peers. Therefore, regardless of shape, size or sense, the girls squeezed themselves into clothes that …
- Didn’t fit
- Didn’t suit
- Definitely didn’t complement
- Weren’t the slightest bit practical
- Or, the least bit comfortable.
This reminds me of identity.
Stay with me, there is a connection.
The Emperor’s Coat
Whilst it broke my heart to see the girls turning themselves inside-out, in inappropriate clothing, desperate to belong, it didn’t surprise me.
We are relational creations who see ourselves in relation to others.
But thankfully, our identity is not determined by our DNA. On the contrary, our identity is like an item of clothing … worn on the inside. And just like we choose what to wear, we get to choose who we identify as.
In this, like other major life decisions, we continue to look to others for conformation; all our lives we are told who we are. Growing up we’re, “good”, “bad”, “beautiful”, “tubby”, etc. Our school peers will determine whether we’re cool, uncool, accepted, or rejected. At work we are led to believe the better person earns the bigger income. The world tells us the more we have, the happier we will be.
Truth or lie, we will believe something if we hear it often enough. This can lead us to accept an identity that doesn’t fit our character, suit our personality, or complement our nature. It can cause us to go through life never at peace or comfortable with who we believe we are.
But we don’t have to accept an ill-fitting, uncomfortable identity. We have a choice. Years ago I watched the movie, The Hurricane. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
The judge, jury and county saw him as a criminal. Yet for Carter, this identity was like an ill-fitting coat. So, he chose to wear another. As much as was possible, whilst incarcerated, he lived to his own schedule in his own clothes.
In reality, he was a prisoner.
To the world, he was a murderer.
But he identified, as free.
The Lord’s Coat
This is similar to how it is for Christians.
- We have been given a new identity – we have been made new
- The world sees us as something else – a lost cause
- We have to make a choice between the two – the world or God; not both
Sometimes it’s a bit tricky hanging onto this new identity, especially when the storms of life try to rip that new coat right off our back.
- The darkness of trials, can blind us to the Light of the glory of God
- The clashing of the crowd can deafen us to the Word of truth
- In moments of doubt, we see ourselves through the lie, not the eyes of our loving Father
Most of us will have a default identity we fall back into when things get tough, when we are tired, and when our defences are down. We will climb back into our old coats, because that is where we are comfortable. We believe the lies and forget that we have been made new.
But in these moments, we have the ability to look to the one whose opinion matters the most, and ask Him,
“Who am I to you?”
Seeing ourselves through the eyes of someone who loves us, often enough, is what it takes to transform our default setting to something new. Once we see ourselves differently, others will see us differently too. And when others see us differently, they will treat us differently. This has both positive and negative consequences.
Over the next few months, I will be looking at some people in Scripture; how the world saw them, how they saw themselves, and how God saw them. Each was adopted by God and given a new identity. And each suffered the consequences; good and bad, for their choice to identify as a child of God.
- Eve –Cherished/Cursed
- Abraham – Adopted/Tested
- Moses – Appointed/Disciplined
- Job – Blessed/Afflicted
- David – Anointed/Pursued
- Esther – Selected/Terrified
- Paul – Transformed/Persecuted
- Christ – Sent/Crucified
You might identify with one or more of these people. If so, I hope you are encouraged.
- Before the series starts, are there here you already identify with?
- Who, how and why?
- How does the world’s opinion challenge your identity?