How to Rebuild a Shattered Identity
At the onset of check marks, scores, and sticker charts, our little brains began to grasp the concept of the “work-to-achieve” mentality. We learned that if we work hard, behave correctly, and follow the rules, we earn the best place. We started hearing and telling ourselves, “If you do enough, you’ll be enough.” Like an annoying song you can’t get out of your head, this phrase became an anthem for our every action.
Study harder. Get smarter. Work faster. Climb higher. Stay busier. Do more. Be more.
Not surprisingly, this refrain nestled into the core of our beliefs and what we think about God. We subconsciously built our faith on phrases like,
A great performance equals God’s acceptance.
More works FOR God helps work our way TO God.
The more you do, the more He’s impressed with you.
Striving equals sanctification.
Labor earns love.
So we built. We worked hard, behaved well, busied ourselves in ministries and crafted our identities on all of the wonderful things we did for God.
But one day, the wood frame made of “works” started to rot. The ground level of “good deeds” began developing large cracks. The walls of our beautifully crafted identities came tumbling down, brick by brick, unable to withstand the pressure of a hard world and an ever changing standard.
Looking over the rubble of a shattered identity, we can still hear the faint echo of the song that broke us:
“If you do enough, you’ll be enough.”
“Hey Jesus, Can I Work For You?”
Thankfully, we weren’t the first people to think we could work our way to God or somehow “do enough” to be like Him. In John 6, a crowd flocks Jesus after watching Him feed a crowd of thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish. They were fascinated. They wanted to be like Him.
The crowd tracked Him down and boldly asked Him a question. I can even hear my own quivering voice in their bold request, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” (John 6:28, NLT).
There it is. What do we DO to be like YOU? His answer hushes the refrain of that ancient lullaby we used to sing as He says,
“This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Rarely has the word “believe” been enough for me, and it sure wasn’t enough for them. They wanted more signs, miracles and ‘bread action’. They asked Him to rain down bread from Heaven like Moses and show them more. Cutting off their demands, Jesus issues the first I AM statement:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.” – John 6:35-36
Realizing Our Hunger and Thirst
Jesus’ statement about Himself is clear: He is the “Bread of Life”. But what are we?
We are the hungry and thirsty ones He refers to. Our hunger and thirst for righteousness, enoughness and satisfaction is not a curse, but rather an indicator to seek the source of life– The Bread of Life. After all, Jesus promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
The problem arises when we take this hunger and thirst into our own hands. Instead of looking to Christ, we look to ourselves, our own “enoughness” and even others to quench that thirst. Consequently, the thing we go to to quench our hunger and thirst becomes the very thing we build our lives on.
Ultimately, we will build our lives on what we adore the most. If we adore our relationships, stuff, accomplishments, success, or even careers in place of Christ, we will inevitably construct our lives and identities atop of them. And anything we adore in place of Christ becomes an idol we serve. Idols can have the appearance of nobility and security, but they will fail us– every time. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 115: 5-7:
“They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see…Ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell… Hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats.”
Idols ask, ask, and ask and we give, give and give to something that cannot bring us the satisfaction we are desperately looking for. Idols forever remain hungry and thirsty, unable to be satisfied by what we sacrifice. And you know what they say about idols–you become just like them: always hungry, always thirsty.
Enough is Enough!
Jesus’ life was the only life worthy of being “enough”. And our gracious God, gave Himself up, so that we could trade-up. Jesus took our sin-filled life and gave us His life, His credibility, and His righteousness. We are enough in Him.
Therefore, if we base our identities on anything other than Christ’s life, we will always find ourselves starved for satisfaction and feeding it in all the wrong ways. Christ is the Bread of Life, given for you and me, so our unending hunger and thirst could be eternally satisfied in Him.
Friend, take a hard look at the ground beneath you. What are you building your life on? Is your life built on the Bread of Life? Or the “works” from your own life? The truth is: Christ’s life is enough. Our “work” is to believe that statement is true. When we live from this truth, we stop trying to do enough, “be” enough and measure up. Instead, we live our lives from a place of satisfaction rather than starvation.
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May we ask the Lord to tear down idolatrous foundations we’ve built our lives on, and ask Jesus, the Bread of Life, to rebuild our lives atop His perfect love and His enoughness.