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Discovering our role in God’s narrative

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Why Elizabeth Bennett shouldn’t write stories

Few weeks ago, a friend asked me to describe who God had made me to be using only one or two words at a time. I started to answer and then paused, realizing that the words about to come out of my mouth had more to do with what I did, who I thought I was, and who I wanted to be than they did with anything God has said about me. Who had God made me to be? I sat in silence for a moment, halfway hoping that I would have some sort of breakthrough — that the heavens would open and a jet would fly through the clouds, writing the answer in the sky. Okay, I didn’t exactly wish that, but I wouldn’t have been opposed to the idea. In fact, it would have been nice, because I knew this question was digging at the core of my identity, and I didn’t want the shovel to come up empty.

Identity is something that is hard to get at. Swayed by popular culture, many of us look to things like status, relationships, and material possessions to define who we are. Yet these identities eventually prove themselves to be false and temporary, like outfits we wear for a time but eventually outgrow or get bored of. The thrill that comes from applause or attention only lasts so long and before we know it, we are searching for a new wardrobe. My suspicion is that most of us have closets full of discarded outfits that we hold on to, telling ourselves that in a pinch they could still define us, even if they don’t actually fit anymore.

Most of us do this without recognizing that it is part of an identity search, because this behavior is ingrained in our nature. If I had to explain the concept of identity to someone who had never heard the word, I would say that it is how humans describe the need each of us has to be known and accepted as individuals. I would tell him that identity refers to the longing we have to distinguish ourselves from others in an attempt to say “I matter.” And I bet anything that even though he had never heard the word, he would quickly grasp the concept because the desire to have a unique identity is an innate part of being human.

That brings me back to the question posed by my friend. When she asked me who God made me to be, she tapped into this desire while also acknowledging why that desire exists in the first place. If you don’t believe that God created you or doubt that he has a purpose for your life, I would challenge you to take a look at the failed identity searches in your life and the lives of those around you. Ask yourself why it is that nothing provides a satisfactory answer to the question “who am I?” For me, this leads to no other conclusion than that I had to be created for something more. My search for identity and meaning is in part, a search for something greater than myself. When I read the Bible, I find it explains what I see going on around me and provides answers for how to deal with the void we all struggle to fill.

Because God created us, it’s impossible to truly answer to the question of identity without first understanding that we were created to be a part of God’s story. God’s narrative gives context to our character development. Trying to identify ourselves outside of this would be like plopping Elizabeth Bennet into the story of Robinson Crusoe and asking her to figure out her role. This impossible task would only leave a disoriented Liz frustrated and confused. No matter what she did to make herself comfortable or how hard she tried to fit in, she would always feel out of place. There is no role that Miss Bennet could assume in Crusoe’s story that would leave her completely satisfied, because she was made for something different.

The same is true in our lives. When we try to enter a story that is not God’s story, we are jumping into the pages of the wrong narrative. We can put on all the costumes and try out all the roles we want, but we will always feel a longing for something different — something more.

Recognizing that we are part of God’s story is freeing because it means that we don’t have to seek status, relationships, or material possessions to feel that we matter. We are unique and important because God created us. He wants us to be part of the narrative he is writing with all of creation.

This means that we must be willing to let him do the writing. Imagine if Elizabeth Bennett, correctly positioned within Pride and Prejudice, suddenly decided that she could write a better story that Jane Austin. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but even if you dislike Austin’s novels, just humor me for a moment. If Liz wrote the story she may be unable to see anyone in her family marrying above their social class, and her assumptions and prejudices would likely prevent her from ending up with Mr. Darcy. But Austin was able to imagine better things for her characters than Liz could ever have dreamed for herself.

With that in mind, think about how big God’s point of view is. As the grand author of life, he sees what we cannot and his imagination for us is unlimited. Nevertheless, we still try to control the direction of the narrative. Doing so is simply another way we grasp at identities that will fail to satisfy.  This is what I was doing when I started to answer my friend’s question by thinking about who I wanted to be. I was telling my story, not God’s.

I think the most genuine and effective way to seek an identity is to let go of all the outfits and costumes — to empty the closet of who we think we are and make room for what God has to say about us. This is a beautiful thing because it means first off that we are acknowledging what story we are made to be a part of and then allowing the author to do the writing, rather than trying to take the pen.

This is the journey I’m on — learning what it means to let God tell me who he made me to be. And I’m thankful that God has the grace to let it be a journey. He knows that surrender is a process. While I continually struggle to let go of my false identities, he has already called me his child and is simply inviting me to walk in his story. It’s an invitation I choose to accept every day.


Written by liferenewed

May 19, 2010 at 4:53 am

Posted in Life lessons, Theology

2 Responses

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  1. Your last paragraph hits on a truth: that you are his child, and in that relationship you find your true identity. We all, in some form or other, become who we are in relationship with others. I am a dad (an identity) because of my relationship with two beautiful children. Part of my identity is found in the role of being a dad.
    And so it goes for all my relationships. I am a husband, an employee, a boss and so on; all due to relationships in my life. Which brings me to my main point which reinforces yours: Your true identity is found in a relationship with your creator (the only relationship that truly matters). The danger for some is that they try to find their identity in relationships other than God; i.e. the mother whose sole identity is in her children will come to the end of herself when her children leave home. She has lost her identity as a child of God. I gain confidence and purpose for life by claiming this truth: I am a child of God, a brother of Jesus and a citizen of a heavenly kingdom. No earthly relationships define me as do those.

    Ken Lester

    May 20, 2010 at 1:03 am

  2. God made you a rockstar at writing. It is good to see you utilize a gift so strongly.

    David Wilcox

    June 3, 2010 at 4:10 am

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