I remember when I was in the business world how afraid I was when I started a new job. Even though I was successful in my previous role, I always wondered if I would be successful in the new role. This new thing that I was stepping into required lots of effort and time. I had to learn new things and there was always more responsibility. It made me nervous and even a little scared! I remember thinking to myself that it would have been much easier to stay in the comfortable rhythm of my prior role. New was scary. Old was comfortable.
But that is exactly the problem, We think about ourselves in terms of how the culture around us does. We are tempted to put our identity in our success or failure in things. After all, that is what is celebrated and rewarded in our culture. We prop up the wealthy, the famous, the talented all the while sending the message that if you fail you have done something wrong or must not be "good enough". We have created this false idea that if you are not on the podium or on the select team that you should not be playing at all. So many of us just sit back and never enter the game. There is to much to risk we believe! What will people think?
I believe that this is why my daughters were afraid to try new things. They were afraid they would "not be good enough" at the new thing. They did not want to show their friends that they were not skilled at this new thing, and that maybe they might fail. They were drawing their identity from the activities they were "good" at, all the while overly aware of what others thought of them and their success or failure. We live in a hyper sensitive and critical world. We get instant feeback through social media and the internet on what others think of our activities. Many times we are harsh critics that bully people to stay in line if you want to be in "the club" or "my friend." There is tremendous pressure to fit the mold imposed on you by others so that you can fit in, all the while forgetting who you really are.
My daughters were falling into this trap. They were forgetting about their true identity, Their identity as daughters of the King, Children of God! I realized that this is also the reason you and I don't try new things either. We have been caught in the "identity trap" and forget about our identity in Christ. We place our identity in other things or other people hoping to gain approval or security. We forget that we have already been given the greatest approval we can ever have through the life and death of Jesus. Through Jesus work for us we have God's approval. Our success or failure does not impact his love for us. It is only through our faith in Him that we have security. It is only through Jesus that we have our true, meaningful identity. It is only through him we are free from the chains of approval and fear that enables us to take a risk and try something new.
We need to get back to having a strong identity in Christ. After all, we really need to get back to trying new things, especially in the church. There is a trend in many churches today to stay true to the way we have always done things. There is a fear of trying something new. Is it possible that we have put our identity more in our practice, our traditions, our Lutheranism more than our Christ. Yes, we are Lutherans but our identity is in Christ. With this identity secure we can be bold and start new things to reach the pre-believers around us. We can be bold even in our failure. This strong, secure identity in Christ is what we need to be talking about and encouraging in our friends and in our children. We need a resurgence of confidence in who we are as sons and daughters of the King, serving Christ with the authority and power that comes only from him. Only then can we be secure in who we are and walk in new ways to bring the saving message of Jesus to a broken and dying world.
Who or what is your identity in? How are you caught in the "identity trap?"