Identification – 1a : an act of identifying : the state of being identified b : evidence of identity 2a : psychological orientation of the self in regard to something (as a person or group) with a resulting feeling of close emotional association b : a largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image (from Merriam-Webster online)
Recently I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations about singles being told to find their identity in Christ. In each of these conversations, their has been a general disdain for the encouragement, mainly due to its nebulous nature. As someone who loves to probe into what Christians really mean when they use cliches and canned phrases, I am grateful that my dear friends brought this one to my attention, as singles often hear it without understanding how or why exactly they are supposed to act on it. Over the next few blog posts, allow me to offer some suggestions for what it means to find your identity in Christ, why it is important, and how to do so.
James, the author of the epistle that bears his name, asks, “What is your life?” His answer is shocking and offensive. “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Said in another, more common biblical metaphor is that you are like the grass that withers and dies. The Bible is very clear that you and every human life is here today and gone tomorrow. If you are able to step back and see your life from start to finish, you will see that the time you spend on Earth is but a blink of the eye. The average American will spend close to eighty years on this planet. Eighty years compared to the 5,000 year old Bristlecone Pine shows us that we are short lived even in comparison to other living creatures, not to mention the brevity of our lives compared against eternity. Evolutionary scientists and those who have bought into their worldview hold up this short stint on planet Earth as all of life. This is it. We’re born. We live. We die. We have a definite beginning and a definite end. Viewing this short life on earth as the sum total of existence is depressing. I believe this is what Solomon is getting at when he says, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Seeing life as nothing more than our physical existence, the repetition of natural events, the constant need to work, and the lack of satisfaction that it all brings leads even the biblical writer to despair. Few, therefore, can truly and completely embrace this view. Humans have a unique understanding that there is more to life than this life. In fact, I would challenge anyone to find a people or a culture from anywhere or anytime that does not have some understanding of the transcendent, of a life and reality beyond this short existence we have. Reincarnation, Valhalla, and a host of other myths are the outworking of God placing “eternity in the hearts of men.” We are aware that there is more to life than this physical existence. we create myths to come to grips with the tension between the realization of our finitude and our sense of eternity. We seek to ground and give purpose to our existence in something transcendent. This is a natural and necessary part of human existence.