Thoughts on Identity and Contentment

If someone were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Seems like a pretty straight forward question. I would likely list: mother, daughter, sister, friend. But is that who I really am?

All of those adjectives describe who I am to other people. They describe a role I fill in someone else’s life. But if I define myself by the roles I fill, what happens when those roles change or go away? For example, I will always be Faith and Journey’s mom, but even that relationship will change. They will grow up and move out and start their own families. Who will I be then? Grandma?! (I’d choose a much cooler name like Gigi or something.)

Understanding who I am, outside of the roles I fill, is paramount to my contentment. Being secure in my identity in Christ and finding satisfaction in Him will allow me to weather the changing roles and relationships in my life. But can I be honest? I’m not always satisfied in Christ. I know I’m supposed to be. But the truth is, just like I try to find my identity in temporal things, I try to find my contentment in those same things.

The reality is, I know that none of those things will ever actually satisfy. But I keep looking to them to fill a hole that only God can. Romans 1:25 says, “…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (ESV). Every time I try to find my identity outside of Christ, every time I try to gain fulfillment and satisfaction outside of Him, I am exchanging the “truth about God for a lie.” I’m saying, “God, even though I know you are all sufficient, I’m going to see if this thing over here will meet my need instead.”

How do I break out of this? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). I used to look at this as a quid pro quo exchange with God. “If I give you this delight that you need, then you will give me the things I want.” So then I would manufacture enjoyment in Him only to be left feeling more empty. But that’s not what this is saying. I believe it’s saying that as I delight myself in Him, truly and completely, all the desires of my heart will be met in Him. He will not leave me wanting or needing lesser things.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to delight in Him on my own. I need the Holy Spirit. So my constant prayer is, “Lord, help me want to want You more. Help me to die to lesser affections, so that You are my one desire.”

I wish I could conclude this with a triumphant statement about how deeply satisfied I am in Christ and how I know my identity is secure in Him. But it’s an ongoing struggle for me. I have to be deliberate to change how I think in this area. As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV).

Common

Recently, the kids and I had huddled into a sort of hug prayer, with a child on each side of me. As I was praying, I was so distracted by their fidgeting with one another. And this wasn’t the first time my prayers had been interrupted by their playing. I remember my own childhood. My parents would have never allowed such frivolity and playfulness. They taught us to fear and respect God in prayer.

But we live in a different time. God is our friend, not some big, far-off being. We want our kids to like God and church and all things spiritual. But in my attempts to make Him approachable, have I made Him ordinary? Have I made God too commonplace?

The idea of the fear of God has somehow gone out of mode. It’s true, I do want my kids to enjoy church and feel like God is their Father. I’ve taught them that prayer is just “talking to God.” But I’m afraid in doing so, I’ve taken away some of the holiness, the sacredness of prayer.

God is nothing to trifle with. He is holy and deserves not only our respect, but our fear. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He said, “‘Do not come any closer’ … ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground'” (Exodus 3:5 NLT). Though God had called Moses to Him, He did not allow him to approach His presence casually.

When Jesus was crucified, the veil of the Temple was torn, permanently removing the separation between us and God (Mark 15:38). But that doesn’t mean our approach to Him should be anything less than reverential.

I’m not saying we need to pray formal, liturgical prayers all the time. But neither should we be distracted or irreverent. Prayer is talking to God. But we must remember that He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, not our buddy with whom we are shooting the breeze.

So I’m doing quite a bit of backtracking and retraining with my kids. We are learning to “bow our heads and close our eyes,”–old school praying. We are learning that prayer is not the time to play and fidget. And most importantly, we are learning that God is to be honored, respected and feared.

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