Sunday, July 26, 2015

The New Bourne Again Identity

For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:13

Do you remember the spy-book thriller The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, popularized by the three movies starring Matt Damon? It is the intriguing adventure of how amnesia victim Jason Bourne discovers his true identity.

We live in a highly performance-oriented society where the essence of our identity is determined by a combination of how successful we view ourselves combined with what the significant others in our lives think about us. As Christians we usually spiritualize this formula by determining our worth based upon our spiritual performance. We may evaluate our significance by our fruitfulness in God’s work, how well we do in some creative endeavor, or the position we hold.

Since none of us are able to consistently perform to the level of our expectations, we begin to somehow feel less than others, inferior, and inadequate. Even when our performance reaches our expectations, the satisfaction we yearn for somehow escapes us.

In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning describes this struggle:
“In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stiffing their growth in the Holy Spirit. … Negative voices from our family of origin, ‘You will never amount to anything,’ moralizing from the church, and pressure to be successful transform expectant pilgrims en route to the heavenly Jerusalem into a dispirited traveling troupe... ” 1.
“When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.  The real trap, however, is self-rejection.  As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.’” 2.    
Abba’s Child is one of the best books I’ve read on this subject. The gist of the book is that most of us bend toward man to define who we are. Finding our identity by looking to man is what the author calls the false-self. Since we were created in the image of God, we really need to look to God to discover our true identity. For me, the most challenging phase in the book is a quotation by John Eagen:
“… The heart of it is this: to make the Lord and His immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God's love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.” 3.
The bottom line question in the issue of identity is how to move from a performance-based identity {a human-doer} to a love of God-based identity {a human-being}. Two things seem to stand out as necessary.
  • Get in touch with what you really believe about yourself. The lies you believe must be exposed before they can be transformed by the renewing power of God’s truth. Ask God to reveal to you what you really believe about yourself and your identity.
  • Plan a half-day alone with God. Ask Him specifically, what are Your thoughts about who I truly am? How do you identify me? It is impossible to truly hear God’s voice in the agitated life-styles that many of us live. From Abba’s Child:
“The indispensable condition for developing and maintaining the awareness of our belovedness is time alone with God. In solitude we tune out the nay-saying whispers of our worthlessness and sink down into the mystery of our true self. Our longing to know who we really are – which is the source of all our discontent – will never be satisfied until we confront and accept our solitude. There we discover that the truth of our belovedness is really true. Our identity rests in God's relentless tenderness for us revealed in Jesus Christ.” 4.
Define yourself radically as one beloved by God!

1.       John Eagan, A Traveler Toward Dawn.
2.       Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer.
3.       John Eagan, A Traveler Toward Dawn.
4.       Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child.