Did you know there’s a question that everyone asks themselves at some point in their life? (And no, “What’s your favorite pizza topping?” isn’t it.)
One question that everyone wonders about. One question that some never answer, while others spend a lifetime trying to figure out. One question that has generated untold millions (perhaps billions) of dollars in books, conferences, seminars, summits, podcasts, classes, counseling, and coaching.
What’s the question?
“Who am I?”
The question of identity goes to the core of our being. If that question remains unanswered, you will live a life of confusion and uncertainty. If that question is answered incorrectly, it will lead to wrong choices and destruction.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Who you are determines how you live. Or, as Joyce Meyer puts it, “Your WHO determines your DO.”
Many begin asking this question in adolescence. I know I did. As my body began going through strange and sometimes painful changes, and my emotions began swinging wildly, I began to wonder, “Who am I?” At the time, I thought I was the only person who was confused. I’ve since discovered that this question is universal.
Everyone needs to discover their true identity. This is crucial because most people do not know or do not believe the truth about themselves. Instead, they’ve believed lies and have accepted a false image of themselves.
Off to a bad start
This begins in early childhood. You begin absorbing what others say about you– primarily your parents and your peers. The messages you hear the most are the ones that will be cemented in your psyche, creating your self image.
The problem for many of us is that those messages are often negative:
- “Bad boy (or girl)! Shame on you!”
- “How can you be so stupid?”
- “You’ll never amount to anything!”
The list goes on and on. And because the messages come from people we love and/or authority figures, we accept them as truth.
I grew up with a dad who treated his sons differently than his daughters. I don’t know why; maybe he thought it was his duty as a father to toughen us up. All I know is he was harder on me and my brothers than he was on my sisters. For instance, there were times when I would do something wrong and Mom would spank me. Then a short while before Dad was due to arrive from work, she’d send me to the living room couch to wait for him. Dad would come home, she’d recite what I did wrong, and then Dad would give me a second spanking and say, “Now that’s because your mother had to spank you.” The message I got from Dad was “You’re not really good enough. You don’t measure up.”
Dad + Mom = Mixed Messages
My mom was also a strict disciplinarian, and sometimes her methods were a little unorthodox. One was “the Bad Lady.” When we were little, if we misbehaved she would threaten to call the Bad Lady. If she didn’t get results from that, she would pick up the phone and dial a number (we found out as adults that she was dialing a number that gave a recorded message of the correct time!) She would then have a conversation: “Hello? Is this the Bad Lady? Yes, this is Mrs. Tracy. I have a very bad boy here…you’ll take him? You’ll be here in a few minutes? Fine, he’ll be waiting.” Click. Then she would send me to sit on the front steps and wait. I would sit there trembling with fear; in my mind, the Bad Lady was someone like Elvira Gulch from “The Wizard of Oz,” riding her bicycle up the driveway ready to stuff me in her picnic basket like poor little Toto. After a few minutes (though it seemed like hours to me), Mom would come out and say, “Oh, you’re still here? She didn’t come yet? Well, I guess you’d better come in then.” The message I got from Mom was, “You’re not really wanted.”
Please don’t misunderstand. My parents loved me, I’m sure of that. But they were both broken people (like all of us) who came into parenting with a lot of emotional baggage from their own pasts, and sometimes that resulted in unintended wounds.
“With friends like that…”
I also received a lot of negative messages from my peers. Being a bookworm and unathletic, I didn’t fit it with the other boys. I got rejected and teased and bullied a lot. I was a fat kid, so I got the usual “Fatso” nicknames. When I reached puberty, though, I had very quick growth spurts and ended up being tall and skinny, so the “fat” nicknames were replaced by much uglier labels. The message I got from my peers was, “You’re weird, you’re different, you’re not one of us. You don’t belong.”
Is it any wonder that I grew up with a deep root of rejection, low self-esteem and a poor self image? I had received so many negative messages my identity was seriously damaged.
But parents and peers aren’t the only problems. To make matters worse, we also have an enemy, Satan, who continually attacks us with lies that are put into our minds in first-person pronouns:
- “I’m so dumb!”
- “Nobody likes me!”
- “I can’t do anything right!”
And again, the list goes on and on. And because it lines up with the negative messages we’ve heard from others, we believe it.
We become deceived.
This shouldn’t be surprising, though. Deception is Satan’s oldest tactic, going all the way back to his first discussion with Eve: “Did God really say…?” The “Father of lies” is real good at making them seem the truth.
So, your identity really is a big deal. But how do we answer that question? How do we find out “Who am I?”
Go to the One who created us.
When we confess our sin and ask Jesus to be our Savior, we are born again. We are saved and forgiven. Our spiritual problem is solved.
But we still have our physical body, our emotions, our mind– and often, a broken identity. We still don’t know who we are. Our salvation is instant, but our transformation is a process. Our mind needs to be renewed with the Word of God. The lies we’ve believed need to be replaced with truth. This doesn’t happen automatically, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
When I got saved at age 18, I was–to be blunt– a mess. I was depressed and suicidal, and I hated myself. In fact, I can remember praying the “sinner’s prayer” and thinking afterward, “Well, God, you got the short end of the deal.” I honestly thought that by saving me, God was getting ripped off!
I had a lot of junk in the trunk, and it took a long time for healing to come. I spent 14 years in counseling with 5 different pastors and 4 therapists. I was also in two different Christian support groups for a total of 12 years. I went through deliverance sessions, I listened to sermons, I read books, I prayed and fasted– honey, I did it all! And slowly, gradually, healing came. And in the process, I found the answer to the “Who am I?” question.
Okay, call me a slow learner. But if you keep reading, I’ll save you some time so you can find the answer as well!
Ready for the answer?
One important piece of the puzzle fell into place when I had the opportunity to attend a conference called “Living Free In Christ.” The presenter was Dr. Neil Anderson, author of The Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness. At one point, Dr. Anderson asked, “How many people here are sinners saved by grace?” Every hand in the building went up.
Dr. Anderson leaned over the podium and said very sternly, “No, you’re not!”
There was a collective gasp from the audience, followed by a stunned silence. Dr. Anderson paused a moment and then said, “You are not sinners saved by grace. That’s not who you are. The Bible doesn’t call you sinners– God calls you saints. Sinner was your old identity, your old man– but all things have become new. You’re a new creation in Christ now. Your identity is in Christ now. And He no longer sees a sinner. He sees a saint– who sometimes sins.”
Making that mental shift from sinner to saint isn’t easy, but it’s the key to real transformation and victory. You need to see yourself as He sees you, because that’s your true identity. That’s who you are! God reinforced that in me one day during prayer, when He gave me the phrase “I am who I AM says I am!”
One of the things that helped me transform my thinking was a list of scriptures and affirmations written by Neil Anderson called “Who I Am In Christ.” It is a powerful list of 27 truths from the Word of God about your true identity in Christ. I kept that list in my Bible and recited those declarations of faith every day during my quiet time for years, until those truths took root in my mind and emotions and spirit. I also wrote them out by hand, over and over and over. If you are struggling in your identity, if you’re still unsure who you are in Christ, I highly recommend you do the same. It will be time well spent!
A Gift For You!
Here is a link to a printable “Who I Am In Christ” bookmark. Print it out on cardstock, cut it out and put it where you’ll see it every day. Let the truth transform you! https://1f7y802yd8un3fk9r24fhooa-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Bookmark-Who-God-Says-I-Am.pdf
- Who Are You Listening To? http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/who-are-you-listening-to
- Little Man, Big Transformation Part 1 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/little-man-big-transformation-part-1
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