Identity Crisis

Perhaps you’ve heard it said – “You do you, and I’ll do me.” On one level it rings true because it underscores our primal need to discover our own uniqueness as individuals. But on another level we all have an abiding expectation that we should all be able to “do us” . . . and discover an understanding of ourselves as a unified whole. So I guess the question is – is there a sweet spot of compromised identity between the two to be found? Or are these simply irreconcilable identities, existing in a perpetual state of contention.

Epistemologically speaking, nothing can actually be known apart from a given context – and even language itself requires an interplay of context in order to take shape and make meaningful communication even possible. Therefore, it could be reasonably argued — to whatever degree we are able to nail down our own identity, is the same degree we become contextualized to our own existence. In this regard, our identity is more than just a mercurial self-referencing appraisal – our identity is meant to be a touchstone, anchoring us back to the very moment all things were spoken into existence.

But ever since we found ourselves outside of Eden heading east, we’ve been experiencing a restless alienation, not only within our relationship to God, but also within ourselves . . . and with everyone else. So now we perpetually invent new identities, new explanations for who we are, each one a dumpster fire of self-referencing calamity . . . and these distorted identities have become ubiquitous within our prevailing culture. They are embedded in the curated obsessions of our consumerist impulse and sexual desire, slavishly pursuing all that our longing eye can behold. Or they’re on full display in the manufactured virtue of our religious and political posturing, feeding the self-righteous sanctimony with which we pass judgment on all those with whom we disagree. Is it any wonder these broken identities make us feel so hollow?

Out of the burning bush God speaks to Moses, declaring himself — I AM (Exodus 3:14), identifying himself as the ultimate reference point for all that exists. And we find this ontological claim being echoed in the words of Jesus I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). So in the same way that nothing exists apart from Yahweh (The Father), there is no way, truth, or life apart from Jesus (The Son) – because the identity of Yahweh can’t actually be understood apart from Jesus. In this regard Jesus makes plain for us the very essence of God.

So here’s what you should meditate on – we were never meant to have an identity apart from God . . . apart from Jesus. Therefore every identity we invent for ourselves is a fiction, contrived completely out of our desperate desire to declare our self-existence, apart from God . Which is Paul’s point in Philippians 3:8, 9 – everything is rubbish when compared with being found in Christ. And our being found in Christ inescapably defines our existence, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, individually members, one of another.” ~ Romans 12:5. Therefore, being found in Christ, whether as individuals, or in community – our identity is unshakably sure.

. . . this is from my Chiaroscuro Collection

Long Buried Stones

There’s a song in the wildwood – that sets my heart free
It’s a gentle persuader – that whispers to me
As it hauls in the ropes – of my turbulent past
And it quiets my storms – till my sea is like glass

I have lived with this longing – till it hollowed me out
And I’ve followed desire – till it filled me with doubt
So in silence I wait – for the solace of night 
Till it translates me whole – in the presence of light

Sure, it’s a vagabond’s dream – to be set adrift
And a poet’s refrain – to repair what is left
But the simple inflection – of hope found in a grin
Can unravel the thread – of what’s been hidden within

So now pour me out broken – into shards of light
And winnow and cut me – and reshape my life
Then remove my hard places – like long buried stones
Find me misfit forgotten – and then lead me home

An Explainable You (1 of 3)

Traveling at the speed of life, we don’t actually know what we think we know, it would be more accurate to say that we are in a constant state of interpretation – constantly reframing our point of reference, in subconscious ways, making micro adjustments. And because we exist within so many layers of context, each insisting upon preeminence – we invariably create a short-hand for triaging our response to each unfolding circumstance. This is all done intuitively, instinctively, pre-cognitively – we are far more complex beings than we could ever hope to completely comprehend . . . but that doesn’t keep us from wanting to imagine a far more explainable version of ourselves.

This is why we are tempted to over-simplify our understanding of reality, vainly anticipating it should conform to our expectations – desperate to reconcile the world we presuppose with the one that actually exists. And all this would merely be an academic distraction if it weren’t so profoundly primal to our self-perception. Yet we leave it in abstraction — allowing the transience of circumstance and the unfiltered narratives of others to contextualize us. For when we allow the explanation of who we are to become ambiguous – invariably, alternative explanations rush into that vacuum.

Now, all of this might seem a bit like a trip down a rabbit hole, until it occurs to you that our culture has already assigned to you a social demographic profile that it expects you to live up to – it’s a readymade explanation of who you’re supposed to be. Such a bloodless explanation is built entirely upon the cultural sub-groups of which you are a member. It’s a calculation meant to subvert any notion of who you are as an individual. Therefore, your only significance is as a constituent member of a group, and who you are as a person has been made largely inconsequential. And that’s just the ditch on one side of the road.

The ditch on the other side of the road is the specious belief that you can be whatever you want to be – that you can somehow simply pronounce your significance into existence. Such a self-affirming solipsism assumes an empty canvas without any preexisting context, and that all relational interactions you experience only have value as you are being served by them. Within this self-involved narrative of your own importance, you’re subconsciously tempted to imagine yourself as self–existing . . . even though only God can be self-existing.

These are the distorted explanations of you that a fallen world offers – either you are to be subjugated by the anonymity of tribal group-think, or you are to be beguiled by the self-delusion of believing that your significance in this world can be conjured up as an act of will. But there is a simpler explanation of you that normally takes a lifetime to unpack – you are the beloved of God! And if you can begin to wrap your head around this foundational reality – then not only will you begin to develop a truer perspective of yourself, you will also begin to recognize the role you play in the life of other’s . . . a role to which God is calling you. So not only is it a practical and workable explanation of you – it’s a fundamental explanation of everything else.

. . . so we place our faith in the one who is able to redeem all things.