I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a pastor. I am a daughter, a sister. I am a musician.
And yet, all defaults. These things are situational, practical, pragmatic. While they reflect the deepest part of how I function in life – what receives my energy and resources – they still fail to get at the heart of who I am. It’s what I do; it’s how others perceive me. But who am I, really?
I think that for the most part, these bits and pieces claimed as “identity” reflect as much angsty deficits inside my heart as they do the truth of who I am at my core. So much of my life was spent in desperate – if productive – searches for affirmation and approval. I don’t beat myself up for this; I think it’s generally how most of us function for the formative parts of our lives. We cobble together relationships and roles so that we can navigate our circumstances, and we end up with a definition of ourselves that is sometimes a badge of honor, demonstrating that we survived. We built a life. We managed.
But when it’s time to move past survival mode; when the opportunity and invitation come to take a deeper look – what next? In a powerful message at PCC yesterday, Brian Hughes said:
If you and I will change the way we identify who we are, it will dramatically affect the outcomes in terms of lifestyle, behavior, sexuality, conversations, affiliations, the way we treat our family, the routines of our lives, the way we approach money, sex, career, friendships, time…everything! Identity is at the core of it all. – Brian Hughes
This is the first in a series of posts designed to offer some specific steps to considering identity. If you sense a need for change; that you are ready to come alive, that there is more than you’ve yet understood about your identity and your existence – perhaps God is offering an invitation to a spiritual exploration. While there’s no quick and easy short cut to such discoveries, there are some thought processes and actual activities that can expose hidden areas and enlighten new opportunities.
Largely inspired by Trevor Hudson’s Discovering Our Spiritual Identity (which has had a profound impact on my own journey over the past several years), an important first step is to move backwards. A change in perspective, a look at the big picture, helps understand the landscape and center yourself. To reflect on the question, “Who are you, really?”, it’s good to have a clear understanding of where you are, spiritually speaking. And to start with where you are, a stark question must be confronted.
Who do you think God is?
Put another way – what is your image of God?
Before beginning an excavation of your beliefs about God and spiritual things, you have to start simply. So here’s a question to hold in your head, and your heart; to ponder without fear or judgement.
What if God is more than you have always understood him to be?
For those of us with a strong fundamentalist imprint on our religious lives, that can be a scary thought. We don’t question God; the scriptures are true. No room for such imaginings. After bumping up against this concept of God being more than I understood, it finally occurred to me that a God that I didn’t question, that I fully understood, was no God at all. By the very definition, God is a vast, boundless mystery!
So here’s a good way to begin, today: Walk around holding this question in your hands.
What if God is more than I have always understood him to be?
See what rises up; what might be possible? What sort of perceived threats or fears arise when you ask yourself this question?
Hold that space for a little while, and come back tomorrow for additional thoughts.
The glory of God is a human being fully alive. – St. Ireneaus