When I was 12 years old, I thought I was Batman. I had just watched Batman Forever and was on this huge superhero kick. I would wear a black cape, stand on top of tall objects, and sing Seal’s Kiss From a Rose while attempting to strike terror into the hearts of criminals.
I quickly learned that this simply wasn’t true. I was not Batman.
Fast forward 12 years. I thought I was a professional musician. I even went so far as to get all of the training and buy all of the gear. I would grab my guitar, play for large crowds and get paid for it! It was great. My name was
wanna-be rock star.
I slowly learned that this was not who I truly am.
I’m Not the Only Crazy One
I’d bet that you play this game too. If you had to pick a word to define you, would it be your job? I guess you could say you’re a doctor, or a lawyer, or a graphic designer. Maybe that’s who you are. Or, perhaps, you would say ‘I’m a friend’ or ‘I’m a mother.’
One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves in life is this,
“Who am I?”
In response to that question, we create images of ourselves. These pictures can be as silly as my childhood Batman identity. They can also be as reasonable as my musician role. Either way, the image is just a shadow. It doesn’t tell the whole story.
Why Can’t I Be Those Things?
These ideas don’t define us because they’re temporary. They have a definite beginning and a definite ending. If your identity were truly ‘business man,’ then you would be born in a three piece suit with a Blackberry and you’d immediately die if you ever lost your job.
You may be a doctor today, but someday you will retire.
You may be a friend to this person today, but someday you will lose touch.
You may be a full-time mother now, but eventually those kids are going to move out.
So Who Are We?
If you’re not familiar with the Bible, stick with me because this is a great story. In the Old Testament, there was this guy named Jacob. In that time, people didn’t receive arbitrary names like “Kenny,” but their names actually meant something. Jacob meant “deceiver.”
Why would Jacob be called “deceiver?” Well, here’s a snippet of his wrap sheet…
- He conned his older brother out of his birthright.
- He lied to and betrayed his father.
- He impersonated his older brother and stole his blessing.
- He married the wrong woman and forsook her for another.
- He pioneered ancient genetic engineering just so he could swindle his father-in-law.
His identity was Deceiver and he played that role perfectly.
After spending years away from his homeland, Jacob returned with a large family of his own. He wished to be reconciled to his brother. There’s this fantastic scene in the Bible where Jacob sends his family and his stuff ahead of him across a river and he is left alone.
As he was alone, all of a sudden this man appears and starts wrestling with him. After Jacob tossed a shabby arm-bar hold, the man touches his hip and dislocates it immediately. Jacob saw that he couldn’t win the fight, so he just grabbed on to him and held on.
Jacob wouldn’t let go, begging the man to bless him. Finally, the man asked, “What is your name?” After Jacob replied, the man said this:
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28
Jacob was wrestling with God Himself. This one event was a microcosm of Jacob’s entire life of struggling. His given name was Jacob, or Deceiver. All of his years were lived in the light of that name. His identity was defined as a deceiver, so that’s all he could ever be.
In this one pivotal moment, that all changed. God changed his name to Israel.
What Does That Mean For Us?
It means that we aren’t who we think we are. Our natural inclination is to live a life like Jacob. We want to pursue our man-made identity, but God has so much more for us. He wants us to become Israel, but we can’t get there without our own wrestling match.
Here’s the beautiful part; in His unfathomable grace, God already took care of the wrestling match for us. He wrote Himself into history as Jesus, lived a perfect and sinless life, and bore the penalty for our sins on the cross.
In that moment, He killed the Jacob in everyone who would believe in Him and renamed us Israel. He died and he rose on the third day so that we could be reconciled to God, so that we could shed our former lives and put on our new selves.
It’s only when we make a decision to receive that gift that we can really begin to live new lives. It’s only then that we can truly begin to understand our identity. The only barrier to entry is faith, and even faith the size of a tiny mustard seed will do just fine.
So Who Am I?
Here’s a start…
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4
So, who are you?