It took a long time for me to admit to myself that I actually cared what other people thought about me. I thought I behaved in a way that demonstrated otherwise, but the vast majority of my fears, doubts and insecurities stemmed from my performance (or lack thereof). I tried to build my entire identity on how smart people thought I was, how much they liked me, and how much my superiors respected me.
Then the Lord humbled me and showed me the frailty of such a task when I was left with no choice but divorce.
As a pastor now left with the crimson letter “D” across my chest, the identity that I thought mattered was shattered into a million pieces. How could anyone respect me or think highly of me when I can’t even be a good spiritual leader of my own home? How can I ever encourage spouses on the brink of divorce to pursue reconciliation? How could I ever consider myself a pastor when my life is such a mess? The person I had wanted the world to believe I was was ripped out of my hands, and I was left exposed, embarrassed and ashamed. Worthless.
Then, when I was left with nothing but the awareness of my own worthlessness, Jesus finally was able to speak to me and remind me of the only truth that my life should be built on:
“William, you have been crucified with me. It is no longer you who lives, but it is me who lives in you. The life you now live in your body, you live by faith in me, the Son of God. I love you and gave myself for you, so that you could have life and have it abundantly.”
I had been building my life on what others thought of me, on what I wanted others to think about me. But a life built on such a foundation will always crumble in the wake of circumstances. A life built on what is happening outside of you will never develop an inner life of peace inside of you. An identity based on ever-changing circumstances will forever be changing. You could lose your job this week. Your child could die this year. Your spouse could leave in the unforeseeable future. You could die tomorrow.
In the movie Across The Universe, there is a scene where one of the supporting characters, Max, is at the dinner table arguing with his wealthy family about what type of life he should be pursuing, a life he is uninterested in. Max finally asks why they are so concerned with what he does, “Why isn’t the issue about who I am?” he asks. His uncle replies, “Because, Maxwell, what you do defines who you are.” The scene comes to a close with Max replying, “No, Uncle Teddy, who you are defines what you do.”
While this is certainly true, I would add that who you are doesn’t matter nearly as much as whose you are.
I was bought with a price. Everything I now do, I do in light of who I belong to. I am an adopted child of God, reconciled to him for all eternity because of what his Son did for me. All because Jesus loved me so radically that his own death sounded like a better option.
If you have also given your life over to this truth, then I encourage you think the same way. The life you now live, you live in light of whose you are, which will completely transform who you are and what you do.