The search for identity, or emotional gold-digging

Just a thought – perhaps you’ll notice that right now I only have time to whack hornets nests and then saunter away whistling…

Emma’s writing some fascinating stuff about identity and gender.  (The photo alone makes the post unmissable!)  But as Emma and I have read and listened to lots of Christian counsel on identity it’s struck us how commonly “Christian identity” becomes the idol.  Emma shows me women’s devotional after women’s devotional where there’s a kind of good cop, bad cop approach.  One day you should really get your act together and become a woman of substance/humility/excellence/gentleness/boldness/baking, etc.  The next, while you’re still reeling, you’re reminded how swell Jesus thinks you are and how you really, really, really must learn to rest in that.

Now here’s something weird, ‘learning how to rest in God’s affirmation of me‘ is experienced by women worldwide as more burdensome than the admonishments to ‘godliness’.  Why?  Well, here’s a guess – because whether your devotional is on a carrot day or a stick day it’s basically about you!  Can you look within and find enough strength to be godly or enough peace to be content?!  Argh!

But that’s the way it seems to run.  And when it comes to ‘identity’ all these preachers/writers/counsellors spend their time discussing the value put on the Christian – “God’s princess”, “In His image”, “Precious in His sight”, etc, etc.  Of course they have verses to back them up.  But it’s just proof-texting.  It’s not feeding on Christ Himself, looking to Him.  It’s just grabbing a sweet verse from Psalms today to help yesterday’s medicine from Proverbs 31 go down.

So what’s wrong with all this.

Well, first of all, when this search for identity becomes the goal rather than simply the fruit of our union with Christ, it’s using Jesus to feel better about me.  So that’s a bit sick.  Think of it this way, you might like the way your spouse makes you feel, and that’s a nice fringe benefit of the relationship.  But if your goal in marriage is to get that feeling, you’re an emotional gold-digger!

But, secondly, psychologically, it just doesn’t work.  Maybe I’m wrong – contradict me in the comments.  But have you ever met someone who’s found a rock-solid, contented sense of Christian identity by searching for “identity”?  I haven’t.  And I think it’s because it’s psychologically impossible.

It’s unconvincing when you repeat human affirmations to yourself “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggonnit, people like you.”  But, psychologically speaking, it’s rarely any more re-assuring when you mentally sign God’s name to the bottom of them.

Why?  Many reasons, but perhaps mainly because we imagine God’s basically like us anyway.  And without really opening up the word of Christ we’re never going to dethrone the God of our imaginations who – surprise, surprise – thinks of us just like we think of ourselves.  So signing His name to the bottom of some lovely sentiments only adds to the sense that this is basically wish-fulfillment.

Want a good sense of self?  Forget self.  You were crucified with Christ.  You no longer live.  But Christ lives in you.  The life you live in the body you live depending on Jesus who loved you and gave Himself for you.

I love the little motto on Todd Wilken’s Issues, etc radio show – “It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus for you.”

Notice it doesn’t say “It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus.” (That’s also an error!  More on that another time).

But it is about “Jesus for you

Forget the proof-texting carrots and sticks.  Go deep with Him and you’ll know you.  Don’t get hung up on you.  Don’t even get hung up on heavenly verdicts on you.  Jesus is your status before God.  He Himself.  If you want to know your status, know Jesus.  If you want to know you, forget you for a bit.  Get to know Him.  Not as an emotional gold-digger, but know Him for His sake.  Lose yourself in Him, and you’ll find yourself.

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Posted on by Glen in pastoral theology

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to The search for identity, or emotional gold-digging

  1. Rich Owen

    Thanks Glen. Great stuff.

    You rightly say that pursuing identity is a wrong goal and that it doesn’t work psychologically, but also scripturally – where is the call for this?

    Scripture kinda goes the other way – as you say – Jesus for you – culminating in that wonderful moment on the morning of joy when Jesus *gives us* and reveals to us our deepest self.

    All from Him. Hallelujah!

    BUT

    When you speak about these things with people – pastorally (and in my own experience), our closeness to Jesus, feeding from Him does bring greater light to who we are. There is exposure and conviction which really hurts.

    Normally we should be utterly utterly ashamed and horrified at what we are shown about *ourselves*. But this is bitter sweet.

    It is bitter sweet because we are shown such rotten depravity and death, decay, wilfulness – this is who I am *in myself* but into that darkness shines the most wonderful light – a light which draws my gaze from myself to Him. Stare into the darkness and die. Gaze into the light and live. The darkness is ugly, but the light is beautiful. Our hearts are won by the beauty. Why would I want to dwell in the darkness any more when the light is so wonderful?

    The thing with being a branch on the whole vine which is Christ is that I’m not grafted on as an ugly carbuncle, but that I am PART of Christ, in Christ, with Christ, He in me and I in Him. A branch of the branch.

    So why would I have any interest in myself any more when I am united to Christ? I mean, what concern will I have for MY identity? Why would I even want to know? We are to lose our lives in order to gain them, not hanker after our old lives.

    In other words, finding *self identity* outside of our union with Him is to go through the mental process of un-grafting ourselves. Bonkers.

    Anyway. Must dash

    Rich

  2. Rich Owen

    ^^ re our given identity on Resurrection morning, I mean Revelation 2:17

  3. Pingback: Pity the fool who pities himself « Christ the Truth

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