Your Online Cup of Tea
Over the last few days, the Lord had revealed a few things about myself to my heart. They came in various means, but all were pointing at the same issue. It wasn’t easy to see but it was much needed. I realized that there were deep seated identity issues which had been affecting my relationships in a negative way. Even the way I interacted with people online all came back to my problem with identity. The past year as I’ve been living on my own and growing into adulthood, the question of “who am I?” has been at the forefront. And various things have been happening since which have been forcing it ever still. But as said before, the last few days I realised that my problem was in what I let define who I was. I let others do it for me, even when I said “I just want to be myself.” Since being myself involved in many ways seeking validation from other people, in order to confirm that this is the right “myself” that I should be. This means I wasn’t doing things because it was me, I wasn’t doing things for others “for them”, but for validation. Constantly bothered and concerned by what others thought of myself as opposed to what I thought of myself. Or rather what I *should* think of myself. Even the times when I thought this was what I was doing, it was still too built on the opinions, or perceived opinions of others. Like for example, someone trying not to be needy I making it all the worse by caring so much about how needy they come off. Asking everyone “am I needy? I’m not needy am I? You don’t think I am do you?”
Rather than let others define me, God should have been my definer. Rather than being concerned about what others thought of me, I should have been concerned with how *I* saw myself, in light of God’s calling on my life. Only from being secure in who I was as defined by God, could I enjoy others by not making an idol out of their validation. Or seeking to be secure in *them*, putting them in a role they were never meant to fulfil anyways.
So I told the Lord in prayer many times, that I just want to be the person He created me to be. I want to be me. The real me. But… who am I? Where do I start? How do I become me? And as I was pondering these things on my walk home, certain truths hit me. I don’t claim to have all the answers, not by a long shot. However there are few things which may be helpful to others who are also trying to figure these things out. There are two main things I’d like to get across, which we’ll deal with in separate posts, but here is the first one:
You Already Have an Identity
It dawned on me that I was starting this whole question from a wrong assumption. I was trying to build a house a shaky foundation. I was assuming that identity was akin to clothing. That there was this right outfit or uniform out there, which is unique called “the real me.” My whole journey in life was to walk towards this thing so that I could put it on and once I had it, I’d have my true value. That find and then walk towards. I had to find the unique blueprint, model, ideal of myself. My purpose, which would give me the true me. This meant figuring it out first. This unique special identity.
So I as I was thinking and praying on this, it hit me: My identity and source of value aren’t mysterious, it’s the image of God. Duh. Here I thought my journey was to create some identity which was uniquely mine, when actually, I already have a true identity. Most importantly, I don’t have to become it, I already have it. I am made in the image of God. My identity, who I am, is this image. It’s not something I have to become, it’s something I already am. I don’t start from zero and go to valuable as I become or discover who I am, rather I start from a place of value and *grow* into who I am. In the first scenario, I need that unique outfit which is out there somewhere, if only I could find. And without that that *I* am lacking. In this scenario, I’m like a seed whose identity is intrinsic, and already present. It’s not something I look for and create artificially, it’s what I grow into naturally.
This sounds so obvious but it’s the truth. God did not leave it a mystery who we are and what our purpose and goal is to be. The problem however is that we either don’t realise this or we don’t value it. “Oh I heard it before, I’m in the image of God, I know, everyone is, but what does it mean to be *me*.” But that’s the thing, being you *is* simply living up to that image which is intrinsic to you. It’s like if an apple seed were to wonder what its purpose and true nature was, or a caterpillar wondering whether its true nature is to become a bear.
There is a reason why pride will destroy your true identity. Part of discovering what your identity is comes in realising that you are a creature. You are not ultimate. You are defined by the reality of another, and that other is God. He has already given you an identity as His image bearer, and there can be no ultimate fulfilment outside of that. It is pride which gets upset and wants to create its own identity and meaning outside of this image of God. That was what led to the first sin. This pride comes not realising just how much God loves us. That God gave us an identity to which anything else wouldn’t be as good. We don’t realise just how much of an honour it is that God has given us. Today’s Epistle (Hebrews 2:2-10) and Gospel reading (Luke 10:16-21) were related to these issues. Scripture says that mankind has been crowned with Glory and Honour, with all creation, in this age or next, under his reign. Consider what St Gregory of Nyssa had to say about this:
“Realise how much more than the rest of creation you are honoured by the Creator. He did not make the heavens in his image, nor the moon, sun, the stars’ beauty, nor anything else you see in creation. You alone are made in the likeness of that nature which surpasses all understanding, the image of incorruptible beauty, the impression of true divinity, receptacle of blessed life, seal of true light. You will become what he is by looking at him. By imitating him who shines within you [2 Cor 4:6], his gleam is reflected by your purity.
Nothing in creation can compare to your greatness. All of heaven is contained in the grasp of God’s hand, and the earth and sea fit in the palm of his hand. Although he holds all creation in his palm, you can wholly contain him. God dwells in you, penetrates you, and is not confined in you. He says “I will dwell in them, and walk with them” [2 Cor 6:16]. If you consider this, you will not let your eye rest on any earthly thing, nor will you consider heaven as marvellous. How can you admire the heavens, O man, seeing that you are more enduring? They pass away [Mt 24:35], but you remain for eternity with him who always exists.”
“But,” you ask, “if this is the great goal and identity given to all people, then aren’t we all the same? Is there nothing unique about me?” No far from it, we are not the same. And yes of course you are unique. Our identity consist of two aspects, as the Fathers taught, the image and the likeness. The image is the common nature and goal which all people intrinsically share. The likeness is our own unique conformity and manifestation of that image which we grow into and become. Just as the Trinity share one divine nature and glory, each member manifests it in their own *unique* personage and are both commonly and individually glorified. Though that aspect of your identity which is called your nature, is shared with others, its ultimate manifestation is determined by your person and uniquely your own. The divine infinite spectrum of the divine glory will eternally be displayed in a myriad of unique ways through the various created person who will participate in it. One person takes one aspect of the divine glory, creativity, and makes the Mona Lisa, whilst another creates a delicious meal, whilst some other composes a beautiful symphony, and other finds little ways to make their spouses day special.
But all of that is a *growing* into what we are, which is the image of God. An image which contains infinite possibilities which is why we’ll only keep growing from glory to glory for all eternity. In a sense, you never stop becoming you. You only become more you-er. Which means to become like God in a way only you will can be for all eternity. Being you isn’t so much about finding a static idea, and once your reach it, that’s it. Rather it’s about *growing* into you already are, a process which never ends, such that being you is more about a direction, than it is a destination.
But if we don’t realise the two sides of our identity, nature and person, if we don’t realise that it’s not just about becoming, but already being, we’ll never have rest. We’ll think there is an ideal to be reached but which never comes. That we are always lacking. As opposed to realising that we are complete in Christ who both made and redeemed our nature. That we have an irrevocable and great identity just by virtue of existing. And that it finds its completion in becoming more like Him. Once we see that, we can both rest and move. Have a secure identity and grow. The seed which is at the beginning, isn’t lacking, it’s just at a different stage of development. This is who you are first and foremost as a creature in Christ. You need to learn to cherish this truth. Love it. Start from it. The more this is settled, the more naturally you will grow, and not one day “become you”. Rather you’ll become more you than are now.
Later on I’ll talk about a few ways in which being firmly rooted in our true identity can transform how we interact with others and help remove the hindrances to growth. But before you begin, rest. Rest in the One who made you and loves you. The One with whom you’ll find rest for your souls.