“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Have you ever stopped to wonder how you learned your name? Probably not, but it likely went something like this. Your parents painstakingly picked out a name that was wholely unique. One that captured their hopes and dreams for everything that you would become. . .or they named you after family members (guilty!). Finally, you made your triumphant entry into the world. You heard it. Someone, probably your mother, welcomed you to this world, by name. You heard it again and again, thousands of times. You learned your name because someone told you.
In the ancient world, your name was more than a word. It gave you your identity, your character, your substance. It was the very fiber of what made you, you. Your name told you who you were. To ask someone their name in the ancient world is to ask, “Who are you?”
How much of our pain comes from not knowing how to answer that question?
Most of us are told who we are by all sorts of people as we grow. These are the words that we take as our identity: Success, Smart, Pretty, Slow, Clumsy, Shy, Artist, Runner. . . Or, sometimes we’ll look at someone else and think they have it more together and so we try to be like them.
But we have this nagging sense that we are more than that. Aren’t we more than what we do, more than what we’ve heard. There is this part of us that knows that we were created for a purpose. The good news is that we can experience this divine identity.
We, as children of God, receive our identity the same way we received our name. God is our creator and Father. Through Jesus, we are connected to the Father and this defines who we are: beloved children of God created for purpose in his kingdom. The Father wants us to come close so that we can hear him tell us about his love and our purpose. We receive our identity by allowing God to tell us who we are over and over again.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he heard the Father speak to him in much the same way, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I’m well pleased. This was the starting point for Jesus’ ministry. He learned his identity first and then began his ministry. A ministry that leads him into the desert where Satan tested him squarely in the realm of his identity! “If you are the Son of God. . .”
Identity is the foundation of discipleship. If we can learn who we are, then obedience, purpose, passion, and fruit flow from it. Now, the process of having our identity solidified in us can take a long time. After all, it took us quite a while to hear our family name before we understood it was ours. In the same way, it takes returning to God every single day to fully live into the identity that God has in store for us.
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Do you struggle with identity? When do you allow God to speak to you? What does God want to speak to you today in terms of your identity?