“Belonging comes before identity. Ownership births purpose. Someone speaks whose we are, and out of that we become who we are. It’s just the way the heart works…” —Charles Martin, Keeper of Water.
Having recently finished Keeper of Water, the above quote has resonated in my soul. Somewhere deep in one’s being there is that great desire and pressing need to discover one’s identity. “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question automatically programmed into young minds as we urge children of all ages to pursue, pursue, pursue… “who? oh, who? oh, who? are you? are you? are you?” It echoes in our minds throughout our lives, so entwined into our psyche that much like Goldilocks we try this, that, and the other til we find what feels “just right”… ‘til it doesn’t. Then, like shopping for that ever elusive garment that will make us more handsome or beautiful, we march on in search for that thing or situation that we just know is the answer.
Now in my seventies I have tried on various cloaks of identity along the way. Some I have inherited, like “daughter, sister, cousin, family member.” Thankfully, in all those relationships, I knew I was “beloved, valued, honored, respected.” It was in walking in my identity in a world bent on ripping me to shreds that the testing came.
That thing about belonging is such a powerful need in us that compromises are often made to become part of a crowd, to fit in, to be accepted. Throughout life we might seek what is popular, what the majority says, listen to stronger voices to lead the way, trusting they are okay, even if they’re not. Then we walk on in some imagined identity of who we think we are not knowing whose we really are. It truly is astounding, and can be fearsome or devastating when we realize we’ve been used, abused, deceived, lied to, misled… especially purposefully for someone else’s agenda. And what of those who have from young innocence been thrown into a life of horrid abuse? There is that thing in us that just wants to trust, for everything to be okay… it rocks one’s soul when the truth reveals the mess we’re in.
“Now what,” the soul asks. “How do I rise up from this awful reality? Do I ignore it? Replace it with something else to make the pain go away? Or is it time to face it straight on and overcome?”
Sometimes the easiest way to get rid of the mess and filth in our lives is to, well… take a bath, wash away the grime, and put on new clothes. Sounds easy, unless one’s identity is involved. “Who will wash clean that mess that is inside of me? Who can I trust to know what I need, to know where and how I am hurting and broken, when I am not fully sure myself? Who cares about me really? Who will not use me again? And how do I know how to trust that person?” The questions can go on and on…
By trial and error we learn… or not.
All my life, and especially since 1970 when I entrusted my life to Christ and became aware of His presence, Jesus has never lied, abused, or harmed me in any way. He died for me, conquered death, and keeps loving me through it all. He is the only one perfect Person in all of human history Who knows my true identity… who I was uniquely created to be… He is the only One who transforms and brings eternal healing to my soul… forgiveness, redemption, everlasting hope. Even when I fail again. So far learning to trust Him has been more than I could have ever imagined. Knowing I belong to Him brings a peace that’s truly beyond worldly understanding. Whether in calm or storm, He is always there. I know to Whom I belong.
From where comes your identity? To Whom or what do you really belong?
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Isaiah 49:16 16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
Leviticus 20: 26 26 And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.