Identity seems to be mankind’s ultimate pursuit. With good reason, as this passionate drive was placed in us for a purpose: to ignite a hunger and initiate a journey that would lead the created back to the Creator; the loved back to the Lover.
Embracing one’s identity in Christ involves stripping off the old one. Not to say that you lose yourself; rather that the mask of who you thought you were comes off as you’re introduced to who you really are.
Stripping off the old identity is a painful process, the mere thought of which can cause individuals to hold the Gospel at arm’s length. It’s a terrifying thought to trust a Being so intimately that you are willing to give up the old you—to surrender your misconceptions and open your heart to a new way of life.
Oftentimes our former identity is an abusive one that can drag us down into an emotional hell. This old identity can lead us astray until we find ourselves alone and overcome by despair. Yet despite its self-destructive effects we cling to it, for though we loathe it, we love it. Though we despise it, we find it comforting by merit of mere familiarity. We don’t want to let go because at least this pain is something we already know.
Living in familiar pain seems safer than opening our hearts up to a whole new world of potential undiscovered hurts. Even we as believers can walk around this earth cloaked in an identity crafted by Satan himself.
We cover our lights with scraps of darkness. We know there is more—perhaps in the deepest parts of our hearts we believe we are who God says we are—but we’re afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of giving up the familiar and plunging into the depths of the unknown.
And nothing can make us take that plunge. Not our pastors, or our spiritual mentors, or our church family. No book, no verse—not even God Himself can make us take that plunge because by honor of His very nature He will not violate the freedom of choice He gave us when He first formed our inmost parts.
He gave us that freedom because He wanted to create us with the potential to love. He wanted us to experience life in abundance; to love passionately; to experience the joy of a real, living, breathing, relationship with Him.
By His grace we do not need to discover the full potential of our faith before we can secure salvation in Christ. We do not need to figure out every aspect of our faith before we can become a child of God; in fact it is impossible to do so without the Holy Spirit in us, opening our eyes and peeling back layers of understanding.
On the contrary, God urges us to come as children. He honors the decision of weak and weary people, ignorant of most spiritual truths save for the basics of the Gospel. In His compassion He gladly accepts the humble honesty of a child, and once the truth of Christ is grasped He seals them with His Spirit.
In that moment of Spiritual conception all shame and guilt has gone. The tattered rags of our old identity become powerless; it’s only hope of gaining ground is through deception.
The moment we become a child of God the journey begins. The rest of our lives is spent unwrapping the layers of this gift we’ve been given; discovering the truth of who we have become and learning to wield the power of that truth, growing stronger and falling deeper and deeper in love with God.
Still, this path of transformation—even after salvation—remains our choice. We may have as much of God has we choose. Some remain content in the knowledge of secured eternity, while allowing their soul to waste away on earth.
That’s who I used to be: a child of God made new, assured of eternity in heaven with my Creator, but ignorant of the possibility of abundant life here on earth. And once I knew of this abundant life, my heart became hard. I watched others experience it and became calloused with self-pity.
I pointed out everything bad that had happened to me in the past and used it as an excuse. I blamed God Himself for sabotaging me; for filling my mind with fantasies of abundant life and then allowing circumstances to ruin any chance I had of obtaining it.
I once said that God would put a prize in my line of sight and tell me to run after it, only to cut off both my legs so I could never reach it. It seemed He got some sick pleasure out of watching me crawl helplessly on the ground. It felt like it gave Him joy to give me hope and then crush it right before my eyes.
Little did I know this grim perspective was the product of Satan using my own fleshly tendencies against me; poisoning and perpetualizing them with his lies. He kept my eyes on the realities of this world rather than the realities of heaven. He kept my focus on the powers of earth rather than the power of God.
Satan did whatever he could to confuse me. Once I managed to lift one blindfold off my eyes he replaced it with another; but throughout this endless cycle of emotional torture, God never gave up on me. He never stopped pursuing me. His mercy was never thwarted by my rebellion. His truth was never overcome by my confusion. His hope was never overwhelmed by my despair.
Finally, out of the graciousness of His unrelenting mercy, God allowed circumstances to break me. Out of His infinite wisdom He allowed darkness to attack me and lead me to a place where I had to make a choice: life or death; truth or lies; hope or despair.
In that moment the Holy Spirit fought for my life. He reminded me of truth. He clung to my heart and refused to let me go. In that moment I chose… and that choice saved my life.
It was in that moment I realized that because of Jesus Christ, I had the power to choose. I was not as helpless as the enemy suggested. I was not a statistic or a victim of circumstance. I was a child of God, and I could either choose to act on that truth, or allow a lie to destroy my life.
I chose God. And my life has never been the same.
By that I don’t mean I haven’t struggled or that the enemy hasn’t attacked me since. What I mean is that in that moment a truth was revealed to me that I cannot forget. I cannot unknow what I know or unhear what I have heard.
I now know that I will only be as much of a victim as I allow myself to be, for overwhelming victory is already mine because of Christ. This victory is a precious gift drenched in His own blood, purchased by the agony of His own soul as He allowed all the darkness of the world to consume Him on the cross so that in His resurrection from the grave He could bring us life.
With this knowledge comes the weight of responsibility. I know that I no longer have the sins of others to blame for my defeat, for though their attacks are crippling, I am undefeatable in Christ.
I can no longer justify my despair by the state of my circumstances, for with my God I have the power to find contentment in all circumstances.
I can no longer pawn off my self-destruction on the brokenness of this world, for by the power of God I have been made whole in Christ.
I no longer have the excuse to live as a victim, for victory is always within my reach.
Although this newfound responsibility is sobering, it brings with it an unquenchable joy, for though I have the choice to fail, I also have the power to choose abundant life.
This is not a onetime decision. It is a series of small choices I have to make each day, and though the thought of having to choose every day can seem exhausting, I find each choice to be a source of exhilaration and joy.
I am mystified and enchanted by this new season of growth. Like a young knight in ancient times I am realizing the weight of the sword in my hand, yet am invigorated by the victory it can bring.
I am confident that after I have spent some time in this season of growth, there will come a time once again where a circumstance will come crashing down on me; one that breaks my heart and tests my faith; one that will threaten to consume my newfound hope.
God will allow the enemy to attack me, for this world is polluted by darkness and each moment I reside on earth I am susceptible to sin, hurt, and brokenness. But hope is still mine, for though God allows evil to exist and reign temporarily in this world, He protects His children. He fights for those He loves and those who love Him.
He takes what the enemy intends for evil and uses it for good. He heals every hurt; He redeems every scar; He replaces each disappointment with a reason to hope.
Life as a Christian is a constant, glorious exchange. In each moment of our born again lives God is continually redeeming our brokenness. And here’s the part that pierces my heart and brings tears to my eyes: Out of His overflowing well of infinite mercy, He not only redeems us from the sins of others against us, but from our own sins as well.
Every sin; every rebellious thought or hateful action—all of it can be redeemed when we surrender it to God. Nothing in all of creation can ever destroy the hope and potential of a life that belongs to Jesus Christ. Nothing can dirty what His blood has washed clean. Nothing can defeat the one to which He has promised victory.
Even after I have realized all of this, I am still afraid. I look forward to future growth, but my flesh dreads it because it knows that the more God gives of Himself to me, the more I must give of myself to Him.
I am human, and though I know what He gives is worth infinitely more, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to give up the familiarity and comfort—no matter how nauseating or self-sabotaging—of my old self.
But the more I know God and the more I realize who I am in Him, the less I am afraid. The more choices I make to give up myself to Him, the more entranced I am by His love. The more I learn about this glorious exchange, the more eager I am to offer up myself to receive more of Him. I look back at all the earthly concepts I used to hold dear, and I realize anew how worthless they are in comparison to God’s love.
Every time I choose God I grow stronger. Every piece of myself I give to Him fills me with greater joy. The more I trust Him and surrender my life to Him, the more abundant my life becomes. I pray that I will continue to choose Him—His truth; His wisdom; His love, as long as I live on this earth. ❤