Battling Our Identity

man standing while wearing black jacket

The photo above is from Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash.

This morning, as I sat quietly in my office—meditative music in the background, journal open, pen in hand—I began to feel the weight of so much.

Interestingly I have just returned from a week away with my family at a cabin in Heber Springs. I should have come back fully refreshed. And while I very much enjoyed the time away with my family, at a cabin amongst creation (river, lake, hiking trails), much personal stuff has been weighing on my heart and mind. So much so that I’ve been feeling it deep in my gut. So much so that it hurt, I could physically feel it.

As I sat there in my office, I grabbed a Henri Nouwen book off my shelf. I felt distanced from God, unheard, unseen, and more. I was having an identity crisis of sorts. I needed to hear something afresh about my identity. Nouwen speaks to this throughout his works, and particularly in Here and Now.

With the question of “Who are we?”, Nouwen notes how we usually answer this question.

  • We are what we do.
  • We are what others say about us.
  • We are what we have.

Nouwen refers to these as success, popularity, and power. Peter Scazzero in his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality refers to them as performance, popularity, and possessions.

In Nouwen’s little book, I was freshly reminded of our identity as sons and daughters of God. I scratch, kick, fight for significance through my doing, what others think of me, and by what I have. I need my trophies to prove my worth. I must do, do, do to attain the status for which I long.

But I was reminded of the simple, yet profound, truth of our identity—even before we do or have. As many have done before, Nouwen shows Jesus as the great example at his baptism and moving into the wilderness temptations:

“Jesus didn’t have to prove to the world that he was worthy of love. He already was the ‘Beloved,’ and this Belovedness allowed him to live free from the manipulative games of the world, always faithful to the voice that had spoke to him at the Jordan [at his baptism]” (Here and Now, p190-191).

The words of the Father spoken even before Jesus did anything.

Simple yet important.

It brought tears to my eyes. I heard God speak. The burden I was carrying was lightened. I encountered grace.

I am thankful for the words of Nouwen to redirect me. He, along with a handful of other spiritual writers, have kept me on track emotionally, mentally, and spiritually over the years.

We are the Beloved of our Father. I drink from that cup today.

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