Thursday, 20 July 2017

Identity?

Recently I have been reading a book in my quiet times which has got me thinking again about identity, our identity, my identity.

The writer suggests that historically identity could be measured by a persons place in society, which often would be with fixed boundaries and little social mobility. Or could be measured by their service to their community and the honour given to them for this by their community. This can be seen in the heroic stories of Arthur and some of the Saxon heroic tales.

As this has changed, it seems identity may well now be based on what we give ourselves as we seek to determine who we are, what we are about. Much of Western society has a focus of breaking away from community and finding ourselves, doing what we want, regardless of any opposition. Crossing social boundaries, which is good, and crossing moral boundaries, sometimes even crossing ethical boundaries in the reaching for an objective. But then if a person believes they have no boundaries, then there are no rules, as Elsa sings in "Frozen", since rules are more often set by community.

Another writer, Zygmunt Bauman looking at identity a few years ago, suggested that as we journey on that path, our identity changes, it is liquid. Which affects the desire to commit or belong for anything other than a temporary period.

As a child of the "post modern" era as some refer to it, I recognise these traits, raised and taught to strive for the best for myself, that I would be what I made of myself and that it would be purely by my own merits that I would find an identity, a place. Of course the forward projection of this attitude can be a person who is a workaholic, driven, paranoid about perfection, and in many cases uncaring or unaware of their impact on others as they strive for their objectives. Often such a person is successful in the worlds eyes.

So where are my meanderings going?

Well, it seems to me, there are good and bad in both ways of seeking identity. A totally liquid situation will lead to little satisfaction and the need to go on striving and seeking which sometimes leads to psychiatric issues, stress and breakdown. A totally fossilised means of identity holds back and represses.

The Bible shows me that I have an identity with God, through Jesus. This identity does not require me to strive to achieve it or find it, it does not require me to earn it because it accepts me imperfections and all, it has already been given in advance if I want to accept it.

When I accepted that identity I found that it neither represses nor gives total freedom. Why? well in Christ I am adopted as a child of God, forgiven for what I get wrong but also not needing to work at earning God's love. His love has been freely given, to set me free from the need to do that. But in accepting it, I also accept that belonging, for that is what accepting this has meant to me, means that there are guidelines that God has set in scripture. These are not about removing freedom as many suggest but it is more like playing a sport, these have rules of play to give the freedom within boundaries that enable us to enjoy taking part.

My need to strive to achieve transformed into a desire to serve God in any way that God wanted me to. My identity in him does not change because of anything I did or do for him, it is secure. He could love me no more or no less than he does, having given everything for me already. But I have the freedom to act, to make my mind up about things, hopefully guided by God through scripture and the Holy Spirit. I get things wrong but am not condemned, but there may be consequences.

Where-ever you are in your journey of identity, pause and consider, God loves you as you are. In our church we encourage folks in our community to join us in looking at this through Alpha courses. There might be one near you, you might want to look for yourselves. Why? Because you are free to chose and you deserve to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

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