King Lear has always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. In it, King Lear is betrayed by those he loves most and is usurped by his own daughters. He is cast out of his own castle and goes mad. One of the many lines from this play that I love goes like this: "Does any here know me? Who is it that can tell me who I am?" Because Lear defined himself by his crown and power, losing it rendered him incapable of understanding his identity. Identity seems to still baffle us in these ways. We like titles and classifications; we like accolades and recognition. We like being able to define ourselves, and usually by all the wrong things.
What do you allow to define you? What in your life makes you feel special? If you didn’t have it, would you be unhappy?
If you pay attention, you can see all the ways we subtly define ourselves. Maybe we define ourselves by clothes and labels or by our jobs. Maybe we define ourselves as “the life of the party” or being the person that everyone likes. Maybe our involvement or position at our church is what gives us identity. I've seen a friend who went from a great job to being a great stay-at-home mom, and she told me she's trying to learn not to "need a title". Even as adults, I’ve seen friends struggle with needing their father’s approval in order to feel good. The list goes on and on and on.
None of these are overtly bad things to enjoy. The problem comes when these things begin to make us anxious or when our days turn upside down because these things fail us. When they become our main focus to the detriment of our hearts, or even the people around us, then we’ve lost our identity.
“And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.' Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.”
Our identity lies in the fact that we are His heirs and His children, sacred in His eyes and loved beyond measure.
What does that mean to us practically?
It means we have to examine ourselves. What do we allow to influence our decisions and motives? Don’t make choices based on those things that may give you your identity. In this way, we become slaves again. Those clothes we spend all our money on, those people we try to impress and entertain, the titles we like...we can’t allow them to determine our behavior or our feelings. We have to stop being anxious over them.
Learn to rest SOLELY in His definition of you. When you hear that voice in your head nagging you about your "identity", remind it that you are His and move by His love and direction. As you do that, peace and joy can come in. Your decisions stop becoming about you TRYing to be something or someone; they'll start coming out of a heart at peace with God's plan and hand.
God, thanks for calling us Your children. Teach us to walk in this and all that it entails. Let us not be swayed by those things we chase after, but redirect our vision to be fixed on You. Let nothing take the place of Your love in our hearts. In Jesus name, Amen.