When asked the question, “Who Are You,” how exactly do you respond? If you’re anything like me, you typically respond with the roles in life that you deem significant. I mean, think about it…roles in family and/or career tend to be the most frequent response(s) to the “who are you” question. In fact, the question itself is rarely asked nowadays, because we’re more interested in hearing what it is you actually do as opposed to who you actually are. Being has become secondary to doing.
I’m not at all saying the significant roles in our lives should in some kind of way be insignificant. My role as Tina’s hubby and Myles’ daddy makes waking up in the morning worthwhile. Not only are they my favorite “Dulas” they’re my favorite people on the entire planet. So, this isn’t some indictment on our significant roles by any extreme.
Yet, if we’re not careful those roles will begin to define us and shape our individual being. We see this all the time, do we not? Getting lost in our careers, living vicariously through our children, feeling like we never have enough stuff are all examples of an identity that’s literally missing in action!
Actually, I believe there are three identity traps to avoid when understanding who we really are:
Identity Trap #1 Our Accomplishments
This trap tends to get most of us at some point in our lives. We all enjoy accomplishing. Perhaps it’s a job that we’ve gone to school forever in order to obtain. Maybe the goals set while on a particular job that we achieved. It could be a business we’ve started, children we’ve raised, or even some feat we achieved that was so long ago, no one remembers or even cares at this point. No doubt, this can be a MONSTER for former athletes and yet, all of us have the tendency to take an accomplishment and use it to define ourselves.
Identity Trap #2 Our Appearance
Yo, fellas, don’t assume this one is gender-based. Maybe this trap wasn’t as prevalent among men 25-30 years ago (when it was ok to have a stomach that resembled a keg instead of a six-pack). In the age of selfies and Instagram, with everyone sharing their goods, we are more conscious of and more controlled by our appearance then ever. Wearing the right name brand, maintaining the most cutting-edge style, showing off the right physique (even it means undergoing surgery) can define our being.
Identity Trap #3 Our Possessions
Unfortunately, this trap probably begins at childhood, no fault of our parents, right? Think about it, we didn’t just want a big-wheel. We wanted the big-wheel. We didn’t just want a video game. We wanted the video game (Atari 2600 to be exact)! As adults, we don’t want a car or a house, we want the car and the house! Why? Is it because we simply enjoy having nice things? That can be the case, though it’s usually not. The reality is that we tend to forget, ignore, or even lose our identity, that which truly defines us in order to obtain more possessions.
Am I saying that accomplishments, appearance and possessions are bad things? C’mon, now…of course not. However, as humans we are prone to fall into one, two or all three of these traps if we’re not careful. What further complicates our vulnerability to each trap is our ongoing tendency to keep score. Yes, I said keep score! And there’s no way we’re going to be on the losing end of accomplishments, appearances and possessions…God forbid! We compare ourselves with family members, friends and co-workers, even strangers at times. After tallying, we will either view ourselves highly because of what a person doesn’t have and we do, OR think too low of ourselves because of what a person has and we don’t.
I seriously doubt that I’m the only person who has fallen prey to this cycle. Gladly, I can say we were never meant to find our identity in things that don’t satisfy, but in a God who does. Here’s the thing, our being finds meaning in relationship with our Creator.
We see this in one of the psalms by one of Israel’s greatest kings, King David. Here’s a guy who had accomplishments, appearance and possessions, and in Psalm 139:1-6 he celebrates the fact the God knows Him.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
If we’re to avoid identity traps, we must find our meaning in relationship with our Creator. God knowing us is the foundation for understanding our identity. Think about it, if God knows me, I have an opportunity…better than that, the privilege to know Him. And if the truth be told, He went to some pretty extreme lengths to know me.
Join me next week as we continue the journey of finding meaning in relationship with our Creator. Before I close, take a look at this quote by
J. I Packer:
“What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God.”
J. I Packer
Samuel Dula has spent most of his adult life ministering in one capacity or another. Upon graduation from college, he immediately began working with middle and high school students all over the country, concentrating on leadership development through a campus ministry in Atlanta, Georgia, New Generation/Youth United. He also invested several years of his life leading and building the high school ministry of Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church, where he was a licensed minister. In addition to Samuel’s work in churches and other non-profit environments, he also taught middle school students in Georgia’s public school system. In 2005, he transitioned into full-time ministry with Next Exit – Rewired, a vehicle he used to consult, create curricula and other resources for urban youth ministries. He was also one of the founding pastors for Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia, ultimately serving as their Missions Pastor. He is currently enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, completing a Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership. He and his wife Tina have one child, Myles. After their son was diagnosed with Autism, Tina launched Myles-A-Part, a nonprofit organization to assist families facing autism. Follow him on Twitter @dulaman.