The Search For Identity
A couple of weeks ago we asked the question, “Who am I now?” in relation to our identity after coming home from living overseas. Truly though, this is a question that we all ask ourselves, “Who am I?” The relentless search for identity has left countless people confused, exhausted, and even in despair. We dress a certain way, dye our hair a certain color, hang out in certain locations with certain people, pursue certain careers, build up a certain image, all to place our identity in something… in anything.
No matter how hard we try or how desperately we search, we can’t seem to find that missing piece to finally give our lives purpose. The fact that we all long for identity reveals two basic truths about mankind:
1) It reveals that we were created with identity.
If we weren’t originally created with identity, then the entire concept of identity would be unknown to us. All would be pointless. There would be no purpose and to echo the great John Lennon, “The dream would be over.” Yet the idea of identity is not foreign to us, it is actually something innately within us. We all have a sense that we were created with identity but we’re not exactly sure what that identity is. This is evident in the second truth about mankind that our longing for identity reveals:
2) It reveals that our identity has been lost.
In today’s world, gender confusion has become an epidemic; men and women seek to place their identity in their career; fashion trends come and go; and scores of people look to others to determine their identity for them. We’re looking for the best route to determine our identity but none of us have directions. We’re lost. In the words of the The Who in their classic song, Who are you? “God, there’s got to be another way.”
There is and as a matter of fact, those lyrics can even point us in the right direction. That stanza begins with the word, God, and if we are to ever end the search for identity, we must begin the search with God.
The Bible opens up in Genesis with the words, “In the beginning God…” It then goes on to tell how He created the earth and everything therein. The crowning piece of His creation was mankind, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” After reflecting on His creation such as a painter would reflect on her painting when it is finished, God said, “It is very good.”
Like any good book however, there was a bit of a plot twist a couple of chapters later. After God created mankind, He then gave them instructions to follow. He placed them in a garden and told them directly, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” The man and the woman that God created were tempted to eat from the tree that was off-limits and they fell to the temptation bringing death into the world.
They didn’t die physically at that point; they continued to live for many years after that incident, but something did die. The very good image of God that they were created in had died, “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
Before they disobeyed God, the man and the woman had no idea that they were naked and they had no need to cover themselves for they were “very good” but after their disobedience they were no longer good at all. So they covered themselves with whatever resources were available: Fig leaves were apparently the best option.
In our search for identity what we really want is to establish an image of ourselves that says, “I’m good enough or I’m very good.” The only problem though is that the resources available to us are merely fig leaves and they can’t restore the identity that we were originally created with.
So what can?
Well, if God was the One who originally created us and declared that we were “very good,” then only He can restore to us the identity that we crave. The story of the creation of mankind is found in the Old Testament of the Bible, but the story of the new creation of mankind is found in the New Testament. There we see God fulfilling His plan of restoring to us the image and identity that was once lost.
The New Testament contains the story of Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh. It’s a magnificent story of redemption, restoration, and salvation. When the man and the woman in Genesis disobeyed God, they brought sin and the curse of death into the world. When Jesus obeyed God, He brought salvation and He reversed the curse of death that once held us all in chains! Part of that curse was not knowing who we truly are.
Now the curse has been removed and in Christ, we have been or can be restored: “If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away; and behold, the new has come.”
The old creation relentlessly searched for identity in anything and everything. The new creation rests in knowing that the search for identity has ended.
The old has passed away and the new has its image and identity eternally established. The only satisfying answer to the question, “Who am I?” is found in Christ. For in Him we are made whole, we are forgiven, we are beloved, we are accepted, and we are very good.
In our search for identity we looked to anything and anyone else but our Creator; yet all the while our Creator was ‘looking’ for us. We placed our identity in what we thought were the finest of coverings but were actually fig leaves and none of it could satisfy. Then our Creator came to us and said, “Where are you?” After that He put on the most gracious display of love the world has ever known: He sent His only begotten Son to identify with us so much so that our sin became His sin and His righteousness became our righteousness.
The search for identity is over. We were lost but in Him, we’re found.
Written by Bradley Couick