It is amazing how much you can learn about someone simply by the way that they introduce themselves. It seems that no matter what the setting or situation, the same questions are typically asked by those meeting for the first time – what do you do, where are you from, and why should I care? Okay, so maybe that last one is something that you may ponder internally, but it is in these brief conversations that we find out how a person sees them self. It is often in what we “do” that we find our self worth and identity. Many are quick to announce their occupation with pride and gusto, while others meekly whisper it as though embarrassed. Beaming parents are often quick to pull out new photos, while students may share about their studies. They say, “I’m Mary, a proud mom,” or “I’m James, the successful attorney,” or perhaps it’s “Beth, nothing too special.” Often it isn't even so much what is said but how it is said. But, whether people realize it or not there is a lot that is communicated in these brief introductory moments.
In thinking about all of these introductions, I want to share with you something I recently read in Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace. Yancey writes about John, the beloved disciple:
“The disciple named John, is identified in the Gospels as, ‘the one Jesus loved’ (John 20:2)…If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ He would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather ‘I am the one whom Jesus loves’.”
“What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as ‘the one Jesus loves’? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?” Yancy poses a great question.
In our world people are often so wrapped up in themselves. We learn early on in life what we do and don’t want to define us, and often it is all in order to be accepted by others. Our lives become devoted to increasing our status and our self-value becomes based upon external qualities. But it is time to let go of all of our man-made, self-imposed, self-limiting definitions and cling to the reality that there is nothing greater or more eternal than being “the one Jesus loves”. And the best part about it is that there isn’t anything we can do, good or bad, to change this identity – he loves us despite, and in spite of ourselves!
This last week we celebrated Easter. This was how Jesus proved that he loved us. He laid down everything in order to save us and bring us into right relationship with Him. Pastor Eric wrote a wonderful blog last week that reminds us that Christ not only endured the physical suffering of the cross but the spiritual suffering of having God pour out the cup of wrath upon Him. This was far more excruciating than any physical torture that he could have endured. Praise the Lord that Jesus came to take on the punishment that we all deserved. Oh how he truly loves us.
I believe that if we were to embrace our identity in Christ, as the one in whom he loves, all of the other little definitions would quickly fade to the background and instead of finding ourselves stretched, depressed, and exhausted at the end of each day, we would find ourselves to be rejuvenated, inspired, and feeling valued.
This week, I challenge you to take a breather from your daily grind and think about how you’ve been defining yourself lately. Have you been using the world’s measuring stick and accepting its labels, or have you stepped out in confidence, shouting from the rooftops (whether literally or figuratively) “I AM THE ONE JESUS LOVES!”
Our identity will define us. We are defined by the identity that we take and this often stems from the choices that we make. What Identity are you taking and owning.