Hey family. It’s the end of another week, and the start of another post. How are you doing today? And how has your week been? Mine hasn’t been the most eventful, but definitely one of the most reflective. My location this week has really just been 📍: In my thoughts & feelings.
I mentioned in last week’s post (to read, click here) that the 1st of November was the anniversary of a poetry piece a friend released in which I featured.
Since then I’ve been really thinking on the topic of identity. What the word means in and of itself, what influences our identities, the root of an identity (to my mathematicians, I don’t mean it in that way 😂), as well as why it’s important. And also, what does it mean to us as believers?
To give you a brief overview, ID is about a young girl who’s dealing with an identity crisis, not sure where to fit in, and the world’s current social media climate not being of any help. This eventually leads to her attempting suicide. I’ll link the piece at the end of today’s post for anyone who would like to listen to it and follow along with her story. The amazing thing about it is, this piece spoke to more than just young girls. It resonated with young women, women advanced in age, boys, and men. And I believe that’s all God’s doing. He knows what each person needs to hear, and can communicate different things to different people in the same breath.
The dictionary defines identity as “who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you.” It’s basically our perception of ourselves or others as a result of whatever lens we are looking through. Be it the lens of societal standards, past experiences (pleasant or otherwise), achievements, positions, possessions, and so on and so forth. This view, then spills over into how we carry ourselves as well as how we relate with those around us. It is also the reason why we attach certain titles to ourselves – because we identify with those titles.
For years, I identified myself with the titles ugly, inadequate, undesirable and weird because for a big part of my childhood I was either called that or made to feel that way about myself. Both in primary and most of high school, the things that were unique about me were the targets for mockery and criticism from other kids, and I carried the hurt and weight of that as I transitioned into late adolescence and early adulthood.
One way I would mask this negative self-identity, was with pseudo-confidence. I don’t even know if that’s the right thing to call it, but I would jokingly talk down on myself before anyone else could as a way to say “hey look, I’m comfortable with my ‘flaws’, comfortable enough to talk about them. See? So you don’t need to mock me for them” When instead, all that did was drill into myself the belief that I was all those things. You see, the words you speak to yourself or about yourself hold so much power, and continue the process of moulding your image of yourself. If you speak negative, it continues to mould your self-image into a negative ‘shape’, and if you consistently speak positive (and believe it) it begins to shift the shape of your mould into something more positive.
Think of it as a sword being molded out of clay, and harsh words spoken adding to the sharpening of the blade. However, any positive words spoken are like instruction to the potter to switch from moulding a sword to moulding a shield. One creates a weapon of destruction and the other a tool for protection.
My thought process continued, particularly this morning as I was piecing together today’s post in my head. But something was missing, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Enter Linda on the scene.
Man! Where do I start? Lynda and I “met” in March last year. I was gifted the opportunity to go to one of the stops in the South African leg of the Poets In Autumn world tour. Linda was one of the local poets who were given the chance to open the show with an original piece. His piece really touched me, and I think it was some days after that night that I DM’d him on instagram just thanking him for heeding God’s instruction and writing and furthermore sharing the piece. Long story short, he actually responded to my DM, and we’ve been in contact ever since. We’ve met in person a few times since then.
This past Tuesday was Linda’s birthday, and I took some time to reflect on our journey since last year. One thing that came to mind was how consistently genuine his character has been since day one. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say that this guy’s heart can be felt in every word and every action, whether it’s via text or in person. And he speaks as though every word has spent a few extra minutes being thought over in his calm spirit. I don’t know how to explain it. And I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment.
It didn’t hit me until our conversation this morning that the consistency in his character stems from the root of his identity. There’s something he said, which ties beautifully with our topic for the day. He said, and I quote:
“I always ask myself how do I look in people’s eyes, and this is not me asking myself from a point of insecurity and me wanting to hold on to people’s opinions and thoughts of me. But just asking myself in light of Christ, like Lord how do people see me? When people see me do they see You, or do they see more of me?
You know I always examine my heart in just making sure that I am not in anyway trying to sell myself but that I am in all ways trying to display God and His goodness. The fact that you pointed all those things out just goes to show that that’s what you’ve been seeing.
And it’s really an answered prayer. I’m just so in awe and overwhelmed by God’s goodness and how He honours our prayers, because my prayer has always been for my life to be poured out for His sake, for His name…”– L. Cebekhulu (2019)
Who he is, the way he thinks about himself, the way he is viewed by the world and the characteristics that define him are all rooted in Christ. His identity is rooted in Christ.
In the world today, many have “rooted” their identity in things that are not constant and consistent. And I’ve put rooted in inverted commas because if the ground in which you’ve planted a seed is not firm/solid enough to withstand seasonal changes, or is shallow as described by Jesus in Matthew 13 vs 5, the roots of that seed will never grow deep enough to produce an unwavering tree. The roots, won’t really function as roots. This is why you’ll find so many inconsistencies in certain individuals’ characters, that it’s hard to say for sure that certain things are things they definitely would or wouldn’t do.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever– Isaiah 40:8
The scripture above let’s us know that God’s word is unchanging. Regardless of what may happen in this world and/or in our lives, God’s word stays the same. It is unmovable because it in itself is THE firmest foundation there is. And Christ is the manifestation of God’s word, which is why it makes sense for Hebrews 13:8 to say Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Therefore to root our identity in Christ – the word – is to base our thoughts, self image, character, and response to this world and the people in it on God’s viewpoint. And the deeper we allow our roots to go in Him (through immersing ourselves in His word, and growing in our relationship with Him), the better the fruits we bear on the outside. The more we look like Christ, sound like Christ, impact like Christ. When people look at us, they see past our physical appearance over to our spiritual appearance.
Something very profound was said this past Sunday in church. It’s that our identities are influenced by our environment, and when you haven’t made God the environment in which you dwell, it becomes difficult to understand your true identity. Remember that whatever a source produces has the same nature as itself. Therefore, taking the time to understand your source (God, who has made you in His image), is taking the time to understand your nature. When you understand your nature, you understand your purpose, and thus can establish your identity. You can appreciate the unique traits about yourself that others mocked or shunned. Even if they were/are dear to you, they may not understand what God can do with the traits that set you apart.
So today, I leave you with 3 questions.
- What have you previously identified yourself as, that when you look back you realise was a result of being in the wrong environment?
- Where is your identity rooted today? If its in Christ, how deep do your roots go?
- Are you bearing the type of fruit that would make others want to be planted in the same ground as you?
Lastly, here is ID. I pray it speaks to you in some way..
Grace & Peace to you & yours
– Xo, Jo 🌺