Sunday, May 2, 2010

I am ?: On Identity

Exodus 33:15-16
If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?

They say mankind's greatest fear is the fear of being invisible.  I think that's why the word Identity is such an important concept in our world.  It's a commonly used word in our society.  It's the very thing that defines us as individuals and keeps us from being invisible.  It's the very thing that sets us apart.

Some would say they are comfortable in the identities they've developed.  Others are still on the search for theirs.  Yet others are facing their identities with utter identity crisis so to speak.

But what exactly is an identity, and how does one go about getting such a thing?  According to the definition, identity is a simple thing: who you are.  A simple definition for such a complex word.

Society gives us so much to define ourselves by: external appearances probably top the chart.  With shows like Extreme Makeover and Americas Next Top Model filling our brains with empty definitions of self.  Academics and degrees fall next in line (for those of us who don't have the looks...).  Finances and material things line our homes and our offices (For those of us who don't have the looks or the brains...).  There's always something.  Something to define ourselves by.  Something to distinguish us from the rest of the world. 

When I think of my own identity there are so many things that come to my mind.  I think of my gender...I'm pretty darn proud of being a woman.  I think of my ethnicity and my cultural background.  I think of my faith, my relationship with God.  I think of my roles as a wife, a daughter, and a sister.  I think of my job as a counselor and my duty to my patients.  It's a kaleidoscope of things, each adding a little color to who I believe I how I define myself.

So, with such a conglomeration of things adding to "who I am" can easily understand why this passage left me speechless.

In the midst of Moses begging God's presence to remain with him, he pleaded with Him by asking: God if you leave..."What else will distinguish me?"

It's as if Moses was saying, God, if you don't come with me, if your presence is not surrounding me....what will define me then?  Who will I be?  What will become of me?  You see, for Moses, his very being was so completely wrapped up in God's presence in his life....there was nothing apart from that.  If God were to leave his side, he literally believed that he would have absolutely nothing else to distinguish him from the rest of the world.  He was desperate to find himself in nothing else but God's presence.

You know, there's something refreshing about that kind of identity.  I suppose it's why Moses is cited to be the most humble man alive.  His very existence revolved wholly around God, there was no part of it left for himself.

I'm challenged by that kind of identity.  An identity that finds it's home in the presence of the Almighty.  An identity that has nothing to do with the things that I make of myself and everything to do with the things God does with me.  An identity that is wrapped up so tightly in God's presence that I find myself in crisis apart from it.  An identity that defines itself by that alone.

It's seems as though I've tried to distinguish myself with so many things.  I've tried to keep myself from being invisible.  And you know, sometimes that works for a while.  Sometimes I can feel pretty good about who I am to others and who I have presented myself to be.

But at the end of the day, even with the most glamorous definition of myself...looking through the kaleidoscope of who I am is not enough.  At the end of the day, I need something deeper, something realer, something more substantial than that.  At the end of the day, I need to quench my fear of being invisible by the reality of being seen by my God.

Because, at the end of the day, the only thing that can satisfy my need to be distinguished and recognized is this one thing: His presence in my life.  His plans and purposes for me.  His vision for my future.  His definition of who I am....who I am in Him.  For here, I am 100% exposed and I am no longer invisible...I can never be.

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