Identity is a very hot topic within the church. Of all the church camps, retreats, conferences, etc. that I’ve been to, I can’t recall a single one that didn’t address it in some way, shape or form. I was thinking a lot about my identity this morning, after my mom and I had had a particularly difficult exchange. It was our third argument in less than 24 hours. I began to write this blog post early this morning, actually, after my therapy session, but was interrupted by leaving for a church speaker I was going to with a couple friends. A speaker whose talk had quite a bit to do with identity.
Thanks to Jamie Winship‘s talk, I’ve re-directed the focus of my blog post tonight. He made some points that were a little too relevant – and as my friend Lea said at one point, “Bridge, he’s literally speaking directly to you right now” – to not share.
The greatest thing I took away from Jamie’s talk today was our (human) need for order. Order gives us a sense of security. A pretty false sense, at times, but still a sense of security. If we can see the way something’s going, the way something’s likely to end up, we’re a whole lot more comfortable with it than if we have no idea what it could lead to. He talked about the relationship between order, disorder, and re-order. “Order”, as we know it, makes us feel calm. Calm, safe, secure, etc. Order aligns with what the world says we want; order is conformity. What Jesus did when He came to earth, that was the opposite of order. He had to walk through the disorder – the chaos, the confusion, the criticism – to get to a place where he was living in the new order, the “re-order” if you will, the world as God designed it to be. Not the world the way humans want it to be, not the world as Satan wants it to be. But the world the way God wants it to be is so beyond our scope of comprehension, that it confuses us. It doesn’t make sense to us. It seems out of order to us. And so we stick with what we know, with the way we’ve always done things – a way that we know doesn’t work. Because it’s a way that makes sense to us. This doesn’t really make too much sense, but if I think about it, I can totally relate. How many times have I rejected God’s way of doing something because I’m more comfortable doing it my own. Does my way work? No. Do I know that it doesn’t work? Yes. Do I surrender and give myself over to God and submit to his ways, though? No.
That’s a really hard concept. I mean sure, it’s easy theoretically. I say I follow Jesus, so I need to trust Him. Okay. But in actuality, that looks like living my life a lot differently than I currently do. That means living my life a way I’m not really comfortable living it. My eating disorder? That’s comfortable to me. Healthy? No. Harmful? Yes. But comfortable? You bet it is! I know exactly what to expect, I know exactly what it will do to my body, I know exactly how close I’ll be able to get to people and what I need to say and do to keep things just how I want them. Essentially, it’s living life on Bridgette’s terms. But that’s excluding God from the picture, little by little, until I can’t even discern His voice from my own anymore.
And so it goes for the rest of the world as well. The hatred certain groups experience on a daily basis begins to seem to be the norm, and we begin to divorce ourselves from everything. Not just our partners, but everything. I don’t understand you? I don’t want anything to do with you. You don’t look like me? That scares me; I can’t love you. You don’t worship the same god as me? I can’t love you. You don’t speak the same language as me? I can’t love you. You’re addicted to heroin? I can’t love you. You don’t smell like me? You’re disgusting. Surely Jesus wasn’t talking about YOU when He said to wash one another’s feet…
But nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to love the people that are just like you. He doesn’t say to love when it’s convenient, or to love when we understand where someone’s coming from, or to love only when we know what’s going to happen as a result of it.
He just tells us to love. Ourselves and one another. End of story.
Similarly, when Jesus says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, He doesn’t mean that it’s true some of the time. We are a beautiful creation of His. ALL the time. And when we beat up on ourselves, or others, we’re just failing to recognize the identity we have in God. Our “true self”, as Jamie put it. Jamie also said something I really liked about comparison. He said when we compare ourselves to other, we lose the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. And I find that to be so, so true. Comparison is such an easy way to strip ourselves of the identity that God has given to each and every one of us.
And finally, Jamie pointed out that when Jesus came to earth, when He came and turned the world upside down as humans knew it – He didn’t just conquer death. He conquered conformity. He transformed the entire way in which we lived. If we’re supposed to be examples of Jesus to those around us, then that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, too. We should be doing the things that seem crazy, chaotic, out of order. The kinds of things that make people ask, “What’s up with her? Where does she get that passion from? Why isn’t she afraid to go up and talk to that man? Why does she give her money away to the homeless, doesn’t she know they’re going to spend it on drugs and alcohol? Doesn’t he worry he won’t have enough to provide for himself?”. All Jesus asked us to do, was to love. He said that He’ll take care of the rest.
Those are the things we should be doing. Stepping into the disorder, trusting that God will turn it into a miraculous re-order; trusting that God will turn our world into something that we can’t even imagine.
And back to identity. Jamie talked about how when the disciples were on the boat during the storm and Peter came out to walk on the water, He was fine the whole time he was looking at Jesus. It wasn’t until he took his eyes off of Him, and began to look at the waves, and the thunder and the rocking boat, that he began to fear for his life. And it was then that he looked away from Jesus, and it was then that he sank. It’s the same for us and in our identities. I could totally relate to this in an eating disorder sense. The second I take my eyes off of Jesus, my hope for recovery is toast, really. Because my human-self’s natural tendency is not to live the way Jesus wants me to live. It’s not to honor my body and do what I need to do for my recovery, it’s to do what the mental illness, my eating disorder, wants me to do. Unless I’m abiding in and walking with Jesus, keeping my eyes on Him every step of the way, and only finding my identity in Him, I won’t be satisfied, and I’ll continue to move further and further away from being the person that God designed me to be. I have to step away from the order – the life that I know, that I’m comfortable with, but that is destructive – and step into the disorder, the submission, the compliancy, the trust in my doctors, therapists, mentors, and Jesus, to get to the re-order. The life that God designed for me. The one where I don’t even worry about anything of this world, but only seek to serve Him. That is where I’ll find my true identity.