The Crisis of Identity

On Tuesday mornings I have the privilege of walking through life with a group of spiritually hungry teens. We meet week to week  to talk about different aspects of faith and Christian life (and to eat cheapo biscuits!). This week the student chosen topic was romantic relationships. I could already sense the brokenness this group had experienced in their young lives as they opened up about the peaks and pits of romantic relationships.

Since my marriage fell apart, God has given me a passion to see healthy relationships in the Church, and I’m no fool…I was in their shoes once. I sought to fill the broken places in my life with  failed relationship after failed relationship, building in me a chemical dependency on acceptance and intimacy all of which cultivated the snowballing nature of shame.

Almost immediately I knew our round table discussion wouldn’t be about dating, but something much deeper. There was more to be said; a foundation to be built. One of stone, not the quicksand of self-centered, self-serving, and destine to fail relationships.

So the lesson shifted. What kind of wisdom would the spirit provide in the short 45 minute window I had with these students this week?

The same message He had for me.

Longing and Identity

I wrote a couple of months ago about longing. It was a hard conversation I had with Tim, but the benefits have been so worth it. Since that talk the Lord has been incredibly gracious to provide conversations with others about their struggles with longing. Through a lot of those conversations and conviction of my own, He opened my eyes to the deeper issue that surrounds longing.

That would be identity.

Our longings confirm our identity.

If I gave you the dictionary definition of identity, it would look a little like this:the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

We long for the next stage of life because our identity isn’t satisfied with where we are currently, and without an identity the desire for more will never be satisfied.

When we have a deep yearning desire that doesn’t seem to silence itself, including and most certainly not limited to the desire to be in a relationship, we have to begin to carefully evaluate the desire with who are in Christ.

God gave us ambitions, dreams, and yearning desires. These in of themselves are not bad or evil things. They are blessings from God, but much like many other blessing from God, the Enemy has bent them. The core issue I believe goes deeper into our psyche and heart than we typically admit. When we a dissatisfied and our yearnings reflect that dissatisfaction, we are relying on what has been bent. Our identity is seeking to be fulfilled in the flesh. But for us who have been reborn, the desires of the flesh must be put to death as we put on the desires of the Spirit.

The battle is eternal. Our desires will be bent. We will only want to look out for ourselves. That is where we need to find God. Take your longing to God. Find Him in the core of it. Let Him restore your identity. Only then will our longings be fulfilled. Only then will we see trees of life spring forth from our longings.

Now What?

If longings confirm our identity and identity is the fact of being of who you are, then the truth lies in this:

The fact of being of who you are as a redeemed follower of Jesus is CHILD OF GOD.

Our longings and identity have been captured by the enemy to makes us desire things that God didn’t naturally intend for us to desire. Money is a good thing but greed is not. Sex is a good thing but within the confines of a marital relationship. Relationships are a good thing, but only when we seek clarity over intimacy, and Identity is a good thing but only when it is rooted in Christ.

As a follower of Jesus, your longings will be satisfied when your identity is rooted in Christ. They may change, but true satisfaction comes from the Son.

With that said, because of the fallen nature of Man, relationships will always be messy on this side of Heaven.

We will experience heartbreak,
broken friendships,
disagreements,
and unrequited love.

But there’s something special about knowing who you are as a child of the King that speaks deep into that brokenness. There is something special about finding God in your longings. There is somethings mysterious about your identity being re-created by Him.

Then triumphantly, we can hold up our banner of Salvation and sing aloud: It is no longer I who live…but Christ who lives within me.

To be honest, this is a real struggle for me. Identity has never been  easy, which is why I’m writing about it. As I begin to let Christ re-orient my identity in Him, and as I navigate post divorce life as an upper twenty something, the words of Christ ring deep in my heart…

But seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.


Father,

In light of longing, identity, heartache, and redemption, speak though the brokenness. Speak through the longing. Speak into our hearts until our identities are in line with your desire for our lives. Give us the vision to seek you first, then the rest will come.

Your Servant,

Matthew


LONGING

Last week a bought of sadness hit me like a ton of bricks.
It always hits at the most inopportune time.
Life has been nothing short of fantastic, then it hits you.

I thought my issue was with loneliness.
I thought my issue laid in unwanted singleness.
But it goes so much deeper than that.
and until this past week, I didn’t have a name for the struggle.

I opened up to a friend about this and his words were so incredibly encouraging.

(if i butcher this I’m sorry brother)

What you’re struggling with sounds like longing, and that’s not something that will go away. Once you’re in a relationship, you’ll long for marriage. Once your married, you may long for kids. Once you have that you may long for a better job…the list can be many many many pages long…

I never even thought of this. It was a completely foreign concept until Tim mentioned it.
The issue wasn’t unwanted singleness or loneliness or scars from the past.
The issue is LONGING.

Longing can be defined as a yearning desire, or a strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant.

Navigating new relational waters and new waters in my walk with Christ has been as rewarding as it’s been stressful, and the concept of longing never even crossed my mind.

He opened up about his own struggles with longing and said this, which I remember very vividly:

“I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but unless your satisfaction is in Jesus, you will never be satisfied. You will always be longing for more, no matter what stage of life you are in.”

This rocked my world a good bit.

In essence what longing tells us is:

ONCE I HAVE ___________ I WILL BE HAPPY.

But, follower of Jesus and those who have yet to discover him, If your satisfaction is not in Jesus, you will continue to long for temporal things, broken cisterns that will never satisfy our thirst.

So, let me challenge you:

What would you fill in that blank with?
What are you longing for?
What are you seeking for satisfaction?

Everyone wants to be happy.
Everyone is on a search for fulfillment.
Find your fulfillment in Jesus and everything else will fall into place.


Father,

Please forgive me for my shortfallings. Please forgive me for my lack of faith in light of relationships. Satisfy my longings, for you, O LORD, are the only one who can satisfy. Satisfy  me and make me thirsty for more of you. Make your love sufficient for today.Give me hope for tomorrow.

Your servant

Matt.


Scripture to Consider:

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

John 6:35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

John 7: 37-39
“…“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.Whoever believes in me, asf the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

2 Cor, 4:7-18
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


Taming a Romantic Heart

I am a bit of a hopeless romantic. I often find myself thinking about love and what it means. I don’t think that being a “hopeless romantic” is a bad thing, but there are times when I have to dial it back a good bit (anyone who knows me probably certainly knows this). I am easily captivated by beauty.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much of my captivation is fueled by an appreciation of beauty, and how much is fueled by a desire to be loved. There is nothing wrong with attraction or the desire to be loved when kept in check. But these things can quickly cross over into the realm of idolatry.

I have to often step back and evaluate where I am in my relationship with Jesus when I feel lonely or when I find myself dreaming about the ideal relationship. All of these ideas come from a place of brokenness.

A major question that has been helpful in taming a romantic heart:

Is my longing to be loved overpowering the love that Christ has already poured out on me?

So, hopeless romantic Christians, Let’s take a step back together and evaluate where our concepts of love are coming from.

Are they worldly in nature?

Are they based off of our own ideal relationships?

Is what we’re longing for realistic?

Are we looking for the perfect man or woman to give us the kind of love that Christ can only give?

After that quick heart check, it may be time to go before God and repent. If you need to do this now, please take the time to talk to God. I’ll wait 🙂

We are fallible creatures, meaning that we are not perfect. Heartbreak will always exist until Jesus comes back. There will always be broken relationships and families. There will always be a longing for temporary satisfaction when there are pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Let’s evaluate this together and become better about finding our identities in Jesus rather than some form of ideal relationship. I believe that God want’s us to be in healthy relationships one day , but I also believe that if our hope is set in a relationship and not in Jesus then failure is eminent.

Only from the overflow of Jesus love in our own lives will we be able to extend an unbroken form of love to a future significant other.

So, when you are lonely, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unloved, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unlovable, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired of being single, cling to Jesus.

He wants your identity to be rooted in Him, then it will be possible to tame the romantic heart and see through the noise to what God has promised.

Cling to Jesus.


Scripture to Consider:

Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”