Why God Must Be at the Center of Our Quest for Identity
BY: KELLY JOY FJESTAD
Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my identity. I didn’t sit at home and ponder why I was the way I was. I didn’t spend much time contemplating my decisions or trying to be a certain way. I was just me. For the most part, I really liked who I was.
But as an adult, I began to process my identity more and more. Why did I act a certain way? Why did people say hurtful things about me? Why did that situation bother me so much? Why was I the way I was? What was my identity?
For as long as I can remember, I have been taught, as a Christian, my identity is in Christ. I am a daughter of the King. If I put my identity in anything else, it won’t last. But what does that really mean? How do I know if my identity is really in Christ?
Identity is an interesting concept. It is this crazy mix of what others believe about us and what we believe about ourselves. I might think I’m organized and strong-willed, but someone else might look at those same qualities and think I am controlling and bossy. Maybe you think you are peaceful and a good delegator, but someone else might look at those same qualities and think you don’t care or you are lazy. So what’s the truth?
That’s the hard part about identity — figuring out who we truly are. Sometimes, people can see things in us we don’t see. They might see an area we need to work on before we see it. They might know something about us we don’t know yet. But, sometimes people don’t see things how they truly are. They might not know the whole story. And sometimes people are just mean. They project their own insecurities on us, and we are left to sort through the pieces.
When I went back to college, I had to take a personality assessment for one of my classes. At this stage in life, I was a stay-at-home mom with four boys under the age of six and another baby on the way. I rarely had adult conversations. My husband is crazy smart! Like SUPER intelligent! I spent most of my days talking to the kids about Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. I did not feel smart. In fact, I felt very stupid. I told myself I was not a deep thinker. When I had to take this personality assessment, I answered all the questions with that mindset.
When my teacher got the results back, she contacted me. She was really surprised at a lot of my answers. She told me she thought I was a deep thinker, and that I really did spend a lot of time processing information and coming to intelligent conclusions. She wanted me to reassess who I thought I was.
As I thought about it, I realized she was right. I had been comparing myself to my husband; and as a result, I felt like I wasn’t smart, and I wasn’t much of a thinker. I should clarify he didn’t do anything to make me feel that way, it was just the result of me comparing myself to him. Comparison is deadly!
This is why it is so important to have your identity in Christ. When your identity is in Christ, then Jesus and His expectations of you are the standard. We need that standard; otherwise, we leave ourselves open to the opinions and standards of every person we meet. That’s a lot to live up to! One person might want you to be more outspoken, while the next person wants you to keep your opinions to yourself. Which person is right? If you run around trying to please everyone, you will have nothing left of yourself. Your true identity will be replaced by the opinions of others.
Finding our true identity takes time. Our identity is formed from the whole of our experiences. Each word spoken over us makes a mark on who we become. Every opportunity, those we have embraced and those we have rejected, leads us down a path towards who we will be. The vastness of experiences, both good and bad, forever change us as we make our way through this journey called life.
Our true identity will only be understood when we shut out all other voices and lean in to listen for the One voice that matters. The One who saw us as we were being formed in our mother’s womb. The One who had good works planned for us before we even existed. The One who sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to die in our place so that He might have a relationship with us.
Any quest to find our identity apart from seeking God is a lost excursion. We will wander this world lost and confused, bumping into one dead end after another, thinking we’ve found the answer, only to have it leave us empty and alone again and again. It is only in Christ we can find our true identity. He was the One who created us in the first place. He is the One with the master plan that works all things together for the good of those who love Him. He is the Potter and we are the clay.
Should the clay question the Potter? Is it right for a man to question God and ask, “Why did you make me this way?” Instead, what if we leaned into God, listening for the whisper of His voice. The voice that says, “My child, I love you with an everlasting love. I have created you with great purpose. The plans I have for you are good. In my presence is fullness of joy.”
Our true identity can only be found by holding up the mirror of Scripture. What does God say about you? What is the truth of the Word of God? Only the One who created can know the truth about His creation.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
Kelly is a wife and mother of five children living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She is an ordained minister and author of PAUSED: Protecting Your Faith When God Says "Wait" and Pursuit: The Cross. For more info visit: kellyjoy.org