- August 14, 2017
- Joe Danehower
I was a high school athlete.
I was a student at Virginia Tech.
I was in a long term dating relationship.
I was never sure of myself and often struggled in social environments.
I am 26.
I am single.
I am gainfully employed in a respected career field.
I am funny…sometimes.
I want to be a father and a husband some day.
I want to have career that is life giving for myself and others.
I want to be financially secure.
I want to build relationships where I am known and I know others well.
I often use the above, i.e. my past, present, and anticipated future, to describe myself to others and ultimately build my own perceived identity. We take the things we have done, what we own, relationships we have and have had, and what we desire to be, and begin to hang bits and pieces of our soul’s identity on them. We let the ‘I was’, ‘I am’, and ‘I wants’ to create something they were never meant to.
Identity is a strange concept. We want to think of ourselves as static. I am what I am regardless of time and circumstance. But if we pull back our own blinders, we know this isn’t true. Who we are and how we behave is heavily influenced by where we are and who we are around. We are dynamic creatures pulled by our surroundings, akin to a roaring fire made of many flames leaping about hoping to find something to sustain it. Fire burns and consumes; it does not reciprocally relate to the means of its sustainment. Once it has consumed, it must leap to a new foundation or cease to exist.
My identity throughout life has often looked like this. I stand upon each and every screenshot of who I’ve been to determine who I am now, all the while restlessly searching for who I will be. From 10,000 feet up, I see every iteration of my self image slammed into the present, jagged edges and all. It’s uncomfortably jarring and anything but secure. A job, relationship, reputation, religion, school, or mission have never sustained me. When we look to these things to carry the weight of our eternal existence, we consume them leaving nothing but ashes to cling to. We burn out and are left smoldering amid the wreckage of shattered identities.
We have to stop tethering ourselves to surface points and look for the one thing able to anchor the core of who we are. We have to stop looking for the next “it” to make us, and hold tight to the only eternal You. It can’t be just what we know about God, or knowing what God says about us. He is not merely the fuel we burn through. He is the eternal Flame inviting us in. We do not use Him, but as if flames of a fire we dance among the source of life that He is. Just like the burning bush, in Him there is fire and life and beauty that does not consume. He is at once the fuel and the fire. It is reciprocal, a back forth encounter only ever growing in intimacy and relationship. One that moves us from mere intellectual knowledge of the other to soul stirring encounter capable of lifting and moving even the most wooden heart. Our identity becomes the belonging we cannot lose. We are at once dependent yet free, created yet creative. When tethered at our depths, there is a freedom at the surface to be you. There is no more behavioral manipulation or image management, no more clinging to circumstances or roles for meaning or purpose. Instead, we get to step into a relationship or a job not looking for identity but moving freely in eternal security. Who you were, are, and will be are all held by the Creator. There is no other identity able to surpass that.