“Yeah, my sister is a Junior in college, but she identifies as a Sophomore.”
My Gen X roots made my inner monologue chuckle. I wondered why our babysitter didn’t just say, “She needs more credits.”
“Identifying” gives others a frame of reference about who we are and who we aren't. Just like brands, the labels we identify with curate understanding and emotion for the people we share them with. This practice may seem like a popular shift in our sociological story, but I would say that belonging and identity have always been paramount to the human heart. Same desire, different terms.
We innately need to feel confident in our connections and at peace with our place. Defining ourselves is simply the response to the question rooted in all of us . . .
Who am I really and what is my purpose?
“Belonging” is our culture’s conclusion and it is absolutely the right answer. But the restlessness comes when we want to belong to a certain group or strive to place ourselves in a box that couldn’t possibly define us. We were not designed to stress about our belonging but to recognize our invaluable worth as a created being born with a purpose and position.
We are NOT fulfilled by our choosing our own sense of belonging
but by recognizing Who we belong to.
I mulled over, from every angle, the best way to share the root of this truth before speaking at a woman’s group years ago. I asked God to show me how I would explain defining our identity and at the most basic level.
Brushing my wet mane before the kids rolled in, the emails started flying, and the tea whistle blew, it hit me. My identity, at the most basic level, is defined by two fundamental understandings:
1. Understanding what God says about Himself first, and then
2. Understanding what God says about me
I still remember holding up the two bright sheets of paper with these revelations sprawled across each visual aid. I didn’t want even one woman to leave that gathering without remembering her entire purpose and personhood was and is cultivated by her Creator Himself.
I had not thought about this profound relational and revelatory moment with God until the story of Jacob crossed my path again recently. You probably know Jacob was given a new name by God. True to the historical context, a new name meant a new identity. And just look at how Jacob’s new identity is conveyed to Him:
10 God said to him,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”
Thus He [God] called him Israel.
But check out verse eleven...
11 God also said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Exactly the pattern God shared with my heart that day, God employed with Jacob.
It was like God said to Jacob, “Jacob, every promise I have spoken over you is wrapped up in what I will call you. Son, what I have done and will do will be recalled every time you are called. Recall, your entire identity is because of the purpose I’ve given you -- and that you have chosen to identify with Me. Yes, also remember Who I am. Not just any God but El Shaddai. I am the God Almighty, Jacob. There is none like me.”
Deep down, who really wants to let go of their uniqueness for a box anyway? The stress of guessing or searching for how we define ourselves and the anxiety that comes from that amount of control and responsibility is daunting. But, when you know you belong, Who you belong to, and that your purpose is set before time began, you stop longing to fit in to someone else’s box or find the right label. You rest.
Take the time right now and ask God to reveal in His Word what He says about Himself. Let the words wash over you.
You are protected, because He is the Rock.
You are free, because He is the Redeemer.
Believer, you are saved, because He is Emmanuel.
I encourage you to seek out more passages of your belonging in relation to Who you belong to. Recall. Ponder. Rejoice.
You are you, because He is your God.
For your success and His glory,