I’ve been doing a deep dive into the concepts of Identity and Purpose lately.
Partly because the craziness of 2020 has forced me to slow down and re-evaluate my life and motivations (and as a type 9, that’s no easy feat!), but also because I’ve been spending more time in intentional bible study.
I find myself captivated by the first few pages of Genesis and how the intention of God’s original design is woven throughout the scriptures and revisited in so many of Jesus’ teachings. It’s incredibly complex and profound, but I will attempt to capture the essence for the purposes of this blog.
We were created to be images of God on this earth. To rule the land in accordance with God’s will, and to live in right relationship with him and with each other.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
This is our Identity and our Purpose, both as singular human beings and mankind as a whole.
Now, the word “image” is translated from the Hebrew word tselem meaning a resemblance or a shadow. If you look at your shadow, you’ll notice that it moves as you move and reflects your image. Similarly, many churches will display wood or stone carvings of Jesus’ likeness as a physical representation of who he is.
This is what b’tselem elohim means – in the image of God.
So you may be thinking, “Cassie, you have beautiful hair and you’ve given us a pretty straight-forward definition of Identity and Purpose, so why does the title of this blog post suggest that there has been a distortion?”
Well, throughout the story of the bible we can see how humans have lost sight of their true Identity and Purpose. They need to be reminded often of their transgressions and given second, third and fortieth chances by God to repent (change direction). But in our modern society, the concepts of Identity and Purpose have morphed even more dramatically in both Christian and secular circles. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that we as Christians have unwittingly allowed the secular notions of Identity and Purpose to obscure our understanding of who we are called to be and how we are called to live. The bible never even uses the word Identity; it's a modern concept
Our western culture has come to merge Identity and Purpose with uniqueness and individuality – being set apart; having a divine objective that was written just for us. We question our life decisions, worrying about whether we’re on the right path – God’s path for our life. We then judge ourselves based on how well-aligned we are to this intangible and ever-changing sense of Identity and Purpose.
The danger with this mindset is that it causes us to focus more on ourselves than on the Creator God. We may have the best intentions, but it can easily become a source of pride and self-centredness to be absorbed in our life’s purpose and who we think we’re meant to be.
Our uniqueness and individuality is written into our DNA – just look at our fingerprints! God designed us with this marker so that we would never have to question whether or not we are unique, divinely created individuals. Yet we continue to try to prove our uniqueness and individuality to ourselves and others by the clothes we wear, the job we have and the way we spend our time. It’s a distraction from our greater calling to be images of God on the earth.
The beauty and importance of our Identity and Purpose does not lie in our uniqueness, but rather in our sameness with the Creator God.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
What if we could set aside our worries and instead celebrate the ways in which we reflect who God is? The only way to truly celebrate our sameness is to not make it about us at all, but instead to focus our attention on the character of God, to be awe-struck by his holiness and the beauty of his kingdom.
We are designed to worship, and one of the ways in which we worship is to emulate that which we idolise and share that love with others. So if we make it our life’s Purpose to seek a deep relationship with God through Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, then we will naturally take up a position of worship and become image-bearers.
Thus, we can truly live out our Identity and our Purpose as images of God on this earth.
Fear does not often look like fear.
Most of us would recognise it as the persistent words of doubt that swirl around in our minds, the weight of emotion on our hearts, or the churning feeling in our gut. Fear has a devious way of disguising itself as anxiety, stress, or even anger. It thrives in times of uncertainty, where the heaviness of our circumstances seems to be resting solely on our shoulders.
Even as followers of Jesus, we are not immune to fear. Life still throws us curveballs which we must navigate, and this can lead us to worry about our security and our significance. When it boils down to it, fear stems from a place of doubt about WHO we are and WHOSE we are.
In Matthew 6:25 – 34, Jesus speaks of the everyday fears that can plague our thoughts. He acknowledges that we have legitimate needs but encourages us to shift our focus towards the One who loves us and has promised to provide for us.
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26, NLT)
This shift in focus can be summed up in one word – FAITH. When we choose to have faith in the Lord through difficult circumstances, we are declaring that he is sovereign over all things. We are trusting that we are who he says we are – his cherished children. And we are resting in his promise that he is with us always. This is what gives us the strength to keep moving forward.
“So do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10, NLT).
So what does faith look like in practice?
PRAY - bring your fears to the Lord in prayer and ask for his peace and guidance.
READ THE BIBLE – it’s important to know God’s character and the promises that he has made to you.
FOLLOW HIS LEAD – listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit and confirm with trusted others before stepping out.
Fear may be crafty and persistent, but it has no power over us when we are walking in faith with the Lord.
This was originally written as a message of encouragement for my church and posted on their social media only, but I know that the struggles of fear and faith are universal. So I'm sharing it here in the hopes that it will be an encouragement to you today.
I'm Cassie, an Enneagram Nine (or a "Peaceful Mediator"), and this is a place where I post my thoughts on identity, relationship and faith. They will often be messy and incomplete, sometimes simple yet profound, and almost always very nine-ish.