Understanding identity. Day five...
I was walking with some folks a few weeks ago when one person said, “My knees are telling me that it's going to rain.”
If this woman had an outdoor event scheduled in her backyard that evening, her knees would be telling her to make contingency plans so she could accommodate her guests in the house.
My point is not to credit or discredit the association of impending storms with joint pain brought on by changes in the barometric pressure. My point is to illustrate that we frequently live our lives, influenced by whatever part of our human existence is making the most fuss.
you like to go out to eat tonight?”
“No. My stomach is acting up again.”
going to spend a week building a new church in Mexico. Can you help?”
“I wish I could, but my arthritis just won't tolerate the physical labor.”
you help me figure out this new phone?”
“I'm not smart enough to do anything like that.”
having a real struggle with her dad's death. Would you go over with me
to pray for her?”
“Sorry, but I'm so depressed I couldn't help anybody.”
that project you've been working on coming along?”
“Oh, I gave up. I can't ever finish anything I start.”
the new job going?”
“They let me go after I messed up an expensive part. I can't seem to do anything right.”
Who are we anyway?
- Are we touchy digestive systems?
- Are we arthritic conditions?
- Are we lamebrains?
- Are we emotional wrecks?
- Are we chronic slackers?
- Are we total klutzes?
Is any one area of your human existence controlling you?
The easiest way to tell is to listen to your own excuses. The part of your human existence which is controlling you will excuse you. In other words, whatever is excusing you from participating in life is controlling you.
A few years ago, I developed a Bible‐based curriculum to help people get out of the lifestyle of poverty and government dependence. The course consisted of eleven two‐hour sessions plus homework. Those who wanted to receive services from the charity I was representing were required to take the class.
After three groups of people had worked through the curriculum, we realized that only those who wanted to get out of poverty were actually helped; the rest just sat through the classes so they could continue to get free services. So we discontinued the classes and went in another direction.
Why would people trapped in poverty resist getting out of poverty?
The main reason, in my opinion, is that the poor have assumed an identity of poverty. Either they were born into poverty or, over time, different aspects of their human nature began to excuse them from participating in life, and those excuses resulted in poverty. And if a person lives in poverty long enough, he or she will start identifying with being poor.
Of course, you can take the following sentence “If a person lives in _____ long enough, he or she will start identifying with being _____” and plug any number of conditions into those blanks.
- If a person lives in pain long enough, he or she will start identifying with being sick.
- If a person lives in an abusive relationship long enough, he or she will start identifying with being abused.
- If a person lives with failure long enough, he or she will start identifying with being a failure.
Let me illustrate how this works with a man named “John.” John lost his job (he'd lost many jobs over the years) and ended up homeless in our town. When asked what happened, he told me about a pattern that always seemed to develop regarding work. He would get a good job, get promoted into a supervisory position because of the good work he did, and then get fired for messing up. He said it was almost as if he sabotaged himself.
I asked him what kind of things people said about him as he was growing up. He told me that both his dad and his uncle constantly reminded him that he would never amount to anything when he grew up. It wasn't difficult to see what was going on with even that little amount of information. As a child, John developed an identity of never amounting to anything and, as an adult, when he started to amount to something he actually did inadvertently sabotage himself, so he could retain his identity. I could see the lights come on as we discussed this with John, and I have the hope that God is helping John continue to change his identity.
For John, his identity as a failure excused him from success. While maybe not so dramatic as it was with John, every one of us has an identity problem because of some aspect of our human existence that is excusing us from participating fully in life.
What's your excuse?
What's my excuse? What's our excuse for not following Jesus and allowing Him to take us into the identity He has prepared for us?
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:57–61 ESV)
Have a good day,