A while back, I had a conversation with some good friends of mine and we got to talking about our identities. To be honest, I am not even sure how we got on the topic, but before I knew it, I launched into a bunch of thoughts about who we think we are and how that affects our general well-being.
It is very common, in the US at least, for people to meet someone knew and immediately ask them, “What do you do?” as if that is the all-encompassing aspect of their lives. As if to say, your occupation tells me more about you than the answer to any other question I could possibly ask. And partially, I agree with that. I mean, if you really think about it, you went into your occupation for a reason (most likely). That reason is probably because of something in your core being. For me, I became a teacher because my dad was one of the best teachers I ever saw. Now, you wouldn’t know I became a teacher because of my dad unless I told you, but you could probably assume that I became a teacher because I like to help people and I am passionate about a specific subject. So far, so good, but is that all there is to know about me? Is that the best way to get to know me? Is that my identity?
More recently there seems to be discussions on this topic that have made people ask a different question. Instead of “What do you do?” they now ask, “What are you passionate about?” Is that question really that different? I mean, I guess it is, but still, it only encapsulates a tiny part of who I am; who you are. I know, for me, that I am passionate about a small percentage of what I care about. Passion is not something that flows easily from within me. I have passions, but only a few things can be put into that category for me.
If my occupation isn’t my identity, then what is? My passions? My hobbies? My friends? My family?
The bigger question is what happens when I place my identity in one of those things and it fails? If I had put my whole identity in being a teacher, what would have happened when I didn’t enjoy it, when I wasn’t as good as I had hoped I would be? I would have been crushed, it would have torn me apart. You see this a lot when people lose their jobs, go through a break-up, lose a loved one, etc. When your identity is placed in something temporary, your identity is temporary.
The only way around having your identity as something temporary is to place it in something eternal.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12