He sat in my study, a 23-year-old man I had baptized and confirmed, and told a tale of an identity crises. Recently he had sat at a restaurant all alone pondering how unworthy he was to be dating the nice young lady he had met. As he retold me the story, he linked his intense feelings of unworthiness to episodes when his father called him “Stupid” and “Idiot”. He also felt ashamed of stupid and idiotic choices he had made in his late teens. “How could God allow him to date such a nice girl?” He thought. He just didn’t feel worthy.
So, what do you think I told him? How do you help someone who has a trashed identity? I asked him to look at me squarely and then I told him he had just confessed his sins to me and that was pleasing to the Lord. Then I said, “Jesus died on the cross for the time you …. And for the time you … And for the time you …” I repeated every sin he had confessed and pronounced God’s grace over them all. His face brightened and he brandished a big smile.
But I still needed to address how his father had made him feel. I said, “Jesus is the one who made you. Fathers and mothers are very powerful to give us a healthy or unhealthy view of ourselves, but they didn’t make us. Jesus made us. He likes what he made and he doesn’t call you ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot.’ What’s more, he died to take way your stupid mistakes. Do you know what he calls you?” He shook his head. I said, “He calls you his precious child. That’s what he calls you, his child.” Then I made him repeat after me, “I’m a precious child of God. I’m not an idiot or stupid. I’m precious child of God.” His smile was riveted on his face. There’s nothing like a good dose of gospel antibiotic applied to a bad case of identity crisis! With a few more doses I think he’ll be cured of the vortex of shame that was sucking him down.
I hope you catch my drift as a reader. Our God has done everything we need to establish and protect our identity. His creative and redemptive grace are what defines us, not anyone or anything else. When we understand and believe this, we will resiliently deal with the identity crushers that the devil, the world and we ourselves throw at us. So, when you see a person shrinking in guilt and shame, don’t forget to renew their minds with the gospel of a Christ centered identity. It will change everything about their lives to what God intended them to be! In Christ there’ always a reason for hope.