A high school friend showed up at my front door one day dressed exactly like me, white t-shirt, boot-cut, button fly Levis, and brown hiking boots. He pulled a harmonica from his jeans pocket and said, “I’m going to learn to play just like you!”
Of all the people he could idolize, he chose me! I didn’t play harmonica well. And my James Dean, Jack Kerouac persona was hardly original.
Since then I’ve seen most of us are in hot pursuit of our true identity. And most of us don’t know where to find it.
Who are you, really?
Designed to Idolize
Though showing up at the front door of your idol may be a bad idea, trying on various identities is not. We all do this. The task is to make better choices than my unfortunate mini-me.
God designed us this way. Children gain most life skills through mimicking and modeling. The mastery of the complex use of language is solely mimicry.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken,” is popular philosophy. Yet ferrel children raised without significant human interaction don’t become themselves. They lose all capacity to know what it means to be human.
Our original God-blueprint includes acute awareness of the other. This design element allows us eventually look from an admired human to our Creator for our God-designed identity. Especially when the admired human fails us! Without that we drown in our own watery images like Narcissus.
Thus looking to others for identity is intended to lead us to ask God about our ultimate identity. Or it should.
The Lost and Found of Identity
Much identity hunting arises from the crisis of losing your heart, the nacent identity God formed in you in the womb.
In Part One of this blog I wrote about how David, ancient king of Israel, traded in his God-created shepherd-king identity for a culturally malformed power-king identity.
The results were tragic: manipulation come adultery come murder.
What’s Your Original Face?
Though we may not have experienced such a drastic heart loss, our modern identity crisis is like David’s. Ours too is about recovering lost original identities.
Looking for your “original face” Van Morrison calls it in his song “Before the World Was Made.” Morrison poetically suggests God created us each with an original face or divine design.
God With You in the Womb
David knew where to look to find his original face. He turned his gaze from other kings, warriors, and men and journeyed back to the womb.
In his vulnerable, honest prayer in Psalm 51 David confessed:
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
David recognized the very presence of God with him in the womb. Psalm 139:
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. . . .
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . .
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
David poetically went back to the womb to learn that, despite being born, as we all are, tainted by human sin, God created him and nurtured him as an embryo. This is how David began to recover his heart.
How do you make the same journey?
Talk with God About Your Identity
David’s psalms were honest conversations with his Creator. These conversations started by admitting he had become someone God did not intend him to be.
Each time I’ve made a turn from false self to true self it has begun with this confession. Admitting it to God was admitting it to myself and vice versa.
As a poetic, emotional, verbal male I tried and failed to live up to the rock-hard, quiet, male stereotype. Finally, pouring my heart out to God, I realized I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God made me a man who loves hunting, fishing, trucks, dirt, building things, poetry, reading, creativity, art, ambiance, emotions, and conversation.
Where mimicry of others falls short, our yearning for true self ushers us to the True God.
Then Ask God to Restore and Renew You.
Again Psalm 51:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
David asked God to restore and renew him to being a shepherd-king. Return him to his roots. But not just to the roots of who God made him but to the roots of who God is: A Shepherd.
What David discovered is stunning. Because each of us is an image bearer of God, our identities, our true selves, reflect God. When I found my original face, I learned like me, God too is a poet and lover of dirt.
Your true self also reflects God.
Look to God’s Original Design.
A rich vein of self discovery flows from our relationships. From the youngest age I was sought out as a conversationalist and counselor by my friends. “You listen well and you have a way with words,” many said.
Sometimes though, we have to pry positive truth from a negative recognition.
“Get your nose out of that book!” my mom demanded of this born bookworm and future writer.
While overhauling a car engine with my dad, in exasperation over my dislike for grease and oil on my hands Dad said, “You’re going to end up behind a desk someday.”
I spent years trying to become a man of wrenches like Dad rather than a man of words like God invented me to be. I joined the Navy to be trained as a mechanic. I’m not bad with tools; I’m just better with words. And I love them more. And they’re not covered with oil and grease. Shame about not measuring up to those expectations long stole my heart. But when I looked to God’s design, I caught a breath-taking glimpse of my true face.
I often think of my ninth grade nemesis and mini-me. I’ve progressed from feeling sorry for him to recognizing I was and am more like him than I ever wanted to admit. My search for my true self has led me down many false roads. My high school dream of playing harmonica in a blues band? I know now my musical gift is limited to listening. And that’s okay. As my friends told me long ago, God made me a very good listener.
How about you? Who did God create you to be? I’d like to hear about it.
Some of these photos are self portraits but others were taken by friends and family