“Who am I?”
When I was a teenager, I used to chuckle to myself when I heard of people who struggled with this question. The phrase, “I need to find myself” sounded pretty wishy-washy to me.
However, that was back in the good old days, when I considered myself quite mature—one of those got-it-together sort of people. Of course, I knew who I was! I was someone who didn’t struggle with things too lofty for me!
I never would have guessed that years later, this very question would turn my got-it-together life into a desperate search for an answer to my identity.
Now, in hindsight, it seems rather odd that I didn’t struggle with the big identity question… But I’ll tell you about that in a moment.
I want to back up for a moment to one of my ancestors… his name is Adam. Have you ever considered how much you and I have lost through his devastating fall? There was a time when he had walked intimately with God. He knew who he was—God’s masterpiece! He was the very crown of God’s creation. He delighted in His creator, and His Creator delighted in Him.
Yes, we all know about this great tragedy of the human race. Not only do we know it, but we live it out day after day after day. Fear… Shame… Nakedness… Hiding…
Adam, filled with fear and shame found that he was no longer presentable to God. He was naked, and ashamed to the core of who he had become. For the very first time in his life, he found himself in need of covering. Quickly, he and his wife Eve sewed together fig leaves to cover their shame…
And I, as a true daughter of Adam, carefully construed for myself a fig-leaf covering.
My life during childhood was one of stark contrasts. I had a school-life personality, and a home-life personality, and let me tell you, they were the exact opposite of each other.
Here’s the schoolgirl: Quiet, shy, sweet, obedient, and passive.
Here’s the home-girl: frustrated, defiant, disobedient, and opinionated.
My mother used to come home from parent-teacher interviews with an incredulous expression on her face.
“Lisa, your teacher told me you are very quiet in school!” She found it quite amazing that her reckless, tomboy daughter could be so well behaved in school.
However, it was a hard way to live. I was always afraid that someone might find out who I really was. It was lonely too—no one really knew me. I couldn’t form relationships with a plastic covering of sweetness in place. It wasn’t really me. The home personality was the real one. The school personality was the fig-leaf covering.
During my high school years, I learned to tame my defiance at home somewhat. Instead of living in stark contrasts, I just became very reserved. I created a safe little world of ideals—the way things ought to be, and I retreated to that world to escape the harshness of life.
Well, I thought life this way was alright… I could manage this way without too much trouble…
But then, God intervened. Eight years ago, when the Lord saved me, He also told me that it was necessary for me to leave behind the world I knew, and form more substantial relationships with His people.
My life suddenly went from the blissful calm of ignorance to a chaotic upheaval.
Lord, I can’t! I’m afraid… I’m so ashamed of who I am. Something’s wrong with me, and I don’t know what it is!
Gradually, the big question that I used to laugh about emerged: “Who am I, Lord?”
I knew I wasn’t the shy, sweet girl that I had portrayed myself to be. However, I didn’t care much for the rebellious daughter that I knew I was. My life became a steady stream of prayers and tears. “Help me, Lord! I don’t like who I was, and what I am is not real. Who do You want me to be?”
Dear friend, I am sharing my story because I have become convinced that the things I have struggled with are common to many. God has placed a deep burden on my heart to share the things He has taught me because there are hurting people out there who need to hear it. I wish to hold out the hope and freedom that I have found in Jesus Christ.
Ever since Adam, we all have a deep sense of inner shame about who we are; we know we are not presentable as we are. We find ourselves to be incomplete, and inadequate. You see, with the fall, we have lost our true identity—that which we were created to be. We don’t like who we are; somehow, we just know that there has got to be something more.
Let me hold before you Jesus—the second Adam who came to restore to us our lost identity. Just read this verse—it’s become the theme of my life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
I love this verse! It tells us about the divine exchange that was made on our behalf. Jesus took our old, warped lost identities and made it His own on the cross. Then He took His wholeness and completeness—His sinless beauty and made it ours! This is the new us! We are brand new creations in Jesus Christ, and we are lovely, as He is.
Our old, despicable identities have dissolved with the death of our Savior on the cross. That’s why the Scriptures proclaim so beautifully, “I have been crucified in Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Isn’t it wonderful? The old me which I hated is no longer a part of my identity. It has died with Jesus Christ. The life that I now live is lived in and through Him.
Oh yes, the old habits of the flesh still rise up. They are amazingly resilient, aren’t they? However, they have seen their better days. God’s grace is so complete, that those sinful habits which I despise can no longer define who I am. Nothing can change the fact that I am a saved sinner, and the beauty of Jesus Christ rests upon me.
The old has passed away, behold, the new has come!
As recipients of that marvelous exchange, let’s find out what that means for our lives. Just how are we to live out this truth in all its beauty?
Gods word tells us, “For you died, and your life is hidden with God in Christ. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also shall appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3: 3 (NKJV)
The life God wants me to live is hidden in Him. This means a few things. First, if Christ is my life, then I must abide in Him so that I am connected to Him, so that my new identity which is hidden in Him can flow from Him to me, so that I may live and breath my new identity moment by moment through my connection to Him.
Whew! Did you catch all that? If you didn’t, go ahead and read it again, because it’s ever so important to understand. We simply can not live out the new creations that we are if we are not connected to Jesus Christ. He IS who we are. He is our life—we live through Him.
Second, it is the life of faith. I have to live out what I cannot see. It is a life that is hidden, but yet very real, and I just need to walk day by day, trusting Him to show me how to live and who to be. In other words, I’m not exactly sure what that new creation is supposed to look like, but as I remain connected to Christ, He will lead me step by step. Gradually, the life hidden in Christ will emerge as I walk in obedience to His will.
That’s why the second part of that verse is special too. “When Christ who is your life appears, you shall appear with Him in glory.”
Now I can only catch glimpses of God’s recreation of my life. In glory, I will see the full picture, and everyone else will see the full picture too. In fact, we’ll all see the full, finished product of everybody! God’s perfect plan for His people will be fully revealed for all to see, and it will be lovely.
I’m looking forward to that!
© 2006, Lisa Pennings
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