The Struggle of Identity
One year ago I was graduating from seminary and stepping out of my role as a student and into the unsure territory that is the “real world.” The stress of relinquishing my identity as a student, which had characterized me for most of my life, was compounded by the fact that I had no idea what I was going to do next. I believed that God wanted me to stay in Colorado and had every intention of going back there after my visit to Dallas, TX for Christmas, but my plans fell through and I found myself staying at home for an indefinite amount of time. I began pursuing an alternative teaching certificate because I thought I wanted to teach but felt God turn my attention towards pastoral ministry, which surprised me as I had disregarded it as a ministry path. As I prayed through this calling and tried to discern where I should go to get more practical ministry experience I got a job to begin saving money. It was only a few months that I waited for an opportunity to present itself or direction to be made clear to me, but it seemed like much longer. Finally, I was informed of a church plant in Stillwater, OK where I could help start a new church and undergo pastoral development: Redeemer Church. But my excitement at having direction devolved into despair as I greatly struggled to acclimate to a new city, a new church, new people, and a new role. It seems to me that over this past year God has been systematically destroying the idols in which I have placed my identity and have given me hope, comfort, or assurance to drive home the truth that my identity is in Christ alone.
It is possible that you have been, or currently are, experiencing an identity struggle like me. If you profess faith in Jesus, then you know conceptually and theologically that your identity and hope are only in Christ, but functionally you may be trying to find your identity elsewhere. Possibly you have placed your identity in work, achievements, or your various roles. Maybe relationships or your personal background or history define you. If you are a student then maybe your status as a student, your college, or your grades are the most important thing about you. Perhaps your philosophy, political leanings, social causes, or your adherence to a moral code provide purpose. Maybe you dislike feeling the constraints of an identity bestowed on you but would rather attempt to construct your own identity.