Each time I walk through the door of my gym the drill is the same. I smile, hand them my card and say, "Hi there," at which point they scan the card and hand it back with something akin to, "Have a good workout." Sometimes, they'll even use my name, "Have a good workout Brad," since my name comes up on their monitor. It's a little phony (I don't know any of these people) but it's nice.
A few months ago, the person behind the counter surprised me with a single sentence, "Your mom called."
Questions bounced around my mind. My mom called? Am I in junior high? Does she want me home for dinner? I'm 40 years old. Leaving aside the fact that my mom called my gym, I wanted to know how this person knew my name.
Maybe a note appeared on the screen when they scanned my card. That's reasonable except for one thing. There was a line that day. I was two or three people back. My card was in my pocket. The gal behind the desk got my attention before I had the chance to provide it. How did she know it was me?
The answer isn't complicated. I'm easy to spot. My right arm is hard to miss. It's ok. I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me but, I'll be honest, I was frustrated. Truth be told, there was some yelling in my head. I am not my arm!!
As is often the case, this was an opportunity. This gave me a chance to remember my identity.
It's a nebulous word, like Jello. Dr. James Fearon, professor of political science at Stanford, describes identity as a social category defined by, among other things, expected behaviors. That's helpful because many of us do indeed think about who we are in terms of what we do but is he correct? Are we really the sum total of our responsibilities?
According to the word of God, the answer is an emphatic no! Colossians 3:3-4 states, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him in glory." Jesus Christ decides who we are, period.
The mistake Christians make is believing their identity is up for discussion. Yes, the world has many categories from which to choose but what makes Jesus categorically different is that arguing with His conclusions is utterly futile.
If He says we are loved then we are. If He says we have value, it's the truth. No matter how unbelievable it might be, if He says we are clean, all other opinions are moot .
For example, when I, Brad, look for my identity in my physical appearance, if I allow myself to be defined by how I look, the disappointment will be profound but if I define who I am by what Jesus says about me, the sorrows of the world grow weak.
Does this mean there isn't any relationship between who we are and what we do? Not at all. In fact, if we properly understand how the former relates to the latter, the difference is significant.
Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came in order that we might have life and have it abundantly. As nice as those words sound, few of us understand them not because we don't get the vocabulary but because we wonder if that kind of experience is even possible.
Think back to when you served on a mission trip, led a Bible study, shared the gospel, or even helped someone understand something about God that confused them. You had fun. You know you did. Your heart felt full. Life was different if even for a brief season. You experienced an abundance.
Who we are has no foundation in what we do but when what we do flows from who we are in Christ, we don't sense disappointment or futility or frustration. We realize the opposite. We sense satisfaction. That's the difference.
God saved your soul because He loves you. His death and resurrection made you clean but it wasn't for giggles. He saved us for a purpose: to love Christ and love others for His sake. When fulfilled, that gives Him glory. Living consistent with His purpose, with your identity, is what results in an abundant life, a life made full.
The coming days will offer you a myriad of options for how to spend your time, they always do. Prayerfully consider taking advantage of what will give you a chance to be who you are.
Join a small group. Volunteer to serve in your church's children's ministry. Grab a few guys or gals and go through a book together. Do something, anything, that is consistent with who God created you to be.
The bottom line is, if you define yourself by what you do, you'll suffocate but if you allow Christ to define you and then exercise your identity with your actions, living water will follow and your thirst will feel like a bad dream.