Often times it seems we easily define ourselves based on our life experience. Our choices lead us down certain roads and not down others, and over the course of time our experiences shape how we view the world. So, with that in mind I want to pose the question: Does experience create our identity? Are we the sum of our life choices? Or is it the people we hang around and spend the most time with? There’s a phrase that says “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” But is that speaking of identity or personality? What is identity and where does it come from?
Well, to get right to the point, I’ll start with this: Identity is given, not attained. You already have an identity, and you always have. (But what is it? And where did it come from?)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jer. 1:5
God has already given you an identity. It’s more powerful than you think. It is that thing that desire springs out of. It is carefully crafted, and intricately built. It is the rarest thing there is, a one-of-a-kind. You just have to discover who that person is. You don’t have to work to become that person. You are that person. You just need to discover it.
Life is a journey. We take new paths all the time, with certain scripts in our brains that tell us where to turn. We are influenced by the people around us, shaped by joy and pain, and develop certain personalities over the course of our lives. Almost all of us faces the age-old question though: “Who am I and why am I here?”. Trust me, we’ve all asked it. “What’s my purpose?” “What’s my destiny?” There’s that buzzword again. If you grew up in or around church especially, you were probably told something along the lines of: “You have a destiny.” “Discover your destiny.” “So, God has a destiny for me, but I have no idea what it is or how to get there.” Have you ever thought that? I know I have.
For some reason we got this notion that our destiny was some moment in the future where we would accomplish some elusive thing that God requires of us. But after traversing this path of “identity”, I’m realizing something bigger here. Your “destiny” is not a single place or moment in time somewhere in the future. Your destiny is to discover your identity and express it fully. It is to find out who you are and walk in it. That is what it means to reach your destiny. It’s not about “doing“; it’s about “being.”
God is not trying to get you to “do” something. He wants you to learn who you are and “be” someone. I don’t mean he won’t direct and instruct to do things. What I mean is that his heart is for you to realize who you are. It is not based on works. You don’t have to “perform” to please God. You don’t have to perform to get affirmation for your identity. If He does tell you to do something it is because “who you are” is able to do it. He already knows who you are and what he tells you to do will be an expression of that identity. What He tells you to do will reflect the identity he has given you. It will point to who you are. Obeying God without yet understanding will help you navigate the path that leads to realizing your identity.
The expression of your identity might look different based on your current circumstances or present surroundings. Take Joseph, for example. (The guy from the bible with the “coat of many colors”.) Joseph had a certain identity from the moment he was born. He would have dreams of ruling over his brothers, and stars bowing down to him. He didn’t know what those dreams meant exactly, but he told his brothers and they didn’t respond so well. They faked his death and sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt. He was a slave for a guy named Potiphar, and for some reason Potiphar eventually put Joseph in charge of everything he owned. Then Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph to her husband and they threw him in Jail. Eventually, he was put in charge of all the prisoners. Then a moment came when Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, who ruled the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph interpreted a dream for him and eventually was put in charge of the whole country. Are you seeing a theme here?
Joseph’s identity wasn’t “Ruler over brothers”, “Ruler over Houses”, Ruler over Prisoners”, or even “Ruler over Egypt.” His identity was “Ruler”. His various positions were simply expressions of that identity. No matter where he ended up, his identity was always “Ruler”. That was his destiny, and it was expressed in his life. And get this: His identity was so powerful that it was able to be expressed as a ruler over an entire nation. I wonder if he would have believed that when we was younger.
The same is true of Jeremiah. That verse above (Jer. 1:5) was from an exchange between Jeremiah and God. Jeremiah’s identity was “Prophet to the nations”, but Jeremiah didn’t believe it. He viewed himself through his current position and his own experience. There are many more examples just like this one.
So, what is your identity? And what does that identity look like when fully expressed? I guarantee it’s bigger than you think and no matter what situation you’re in or what your present circumstances are, you can reach your “destiny” by being who you really are.
You may feel lost and unsure of who you really are, and you may still be discovering it. Well, here’s the good news: there’s someone who knows. Ask Him. Then get ready for a journey. The most powerful thing you can do is discover who you already are. It will literally change the world.
[Go back and read the article titled, “What’s My name?” Ask God what name he calls you. That’s a good start.]