Tuesday, October 07, 2008

doing vs being - where do we find our identity?

When you talk to youth (and some adults) about their future career, how do you usually phrase it? Do you ask "What do you want to do when you grow up?" or do you ask "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I think there is an important distinction to be made here. We live in a culture where our vocation is usually one of the primary ways to identify, or define a person; he's a doctor, she's a photographer, he's a home-maker, she's a CEO, etc. But what happens when the person leaves or loses their vocation? Do they lose their identity? Are they a different person? Are they now a 'nobody'? What about those who have not yet entered a vocation? Has their life not 'started' yet? I ask these questions because I myself had to come face to face with my own misconceptions about identity just a few years ago. Up until my current vocation with a rather large company, I had always made a name for myself and had a reputation of being the 'go to' guy. It was my 'identity', or at least a big part of it. Then I joined this large corporation and found myself without an 'identity'; I was part of the herd, I was (and still am) doing a very minor job that most people didn't even know existed, and doesn't begin to use the knowledge and skills that I have. For the first 6 months, I was like a drug user going through withdrawals; and I can definitely see why some who lose their job can sink into deep depression. But through it all God was helping me to see that my true identity was something else altogether, something unshakable, something that had to do with being rather than doing.

There is another thing that I've noticed about myself in the area of doing. For a large part of my life, I've allowed my failures to define me. Saying 'I'm a sinner' is easy for me to say and believe. I've never been a good enough son, or a good enough friend, or a good enough husband, or father. And I've wondered if people would be better off without me. To be defined by our failures isn't what God intended, yet I think that this is a powerful lie, that so many people (myself included) struggle with. As hard at it was for me to let go of the false identity of vocation, this one is even harder. Every time I fail, the whisper 'I am not....' is there to tell me how utterly worthless I am.

Yet there is another voice. The voice of the great 'I AM', that has been whispering something different to me. He tells me that I am his son, whom he loves. He tells me that from the foundation of the world he looked forward to my adoption as a son. He tells me that no matter where I wander in life - even in the darkest places, I will always be a son. For those who are sons and daughters of our great Abba, this is an unshakable truth, all that we now know will pass away, but this will never change.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
- Paul's prayer for us in Ephesians 3:17-19


Kent said...

Rick those are 2 big steps toward freedom. All of our attempts to find ourselves in the area of vocation and self worth are activities of fear and society exploits it at every turn.

Rest begins when we come to know Father's character and our identity in him.

Kirk said...

Very good observation. I remember asking that question of folks many times and making assumptions based on the answer. I also remember the point about a year and a half ago when a song I had grown up listening to, played in bands I have been in, and sung and loved for years just seemed so completely wrong. "I'm just a sinner saved by grace" just seems all focused on the sin when what Papa has all along been trying to get me to focus on is his grace. Thanks for the reminder.