In January I asked the question, "Who am I?!" with dramatic fervor. Then a lot of things happened and seven months later I ended up in Kansas City for an *extended vacation* asking the same question. (You're welcome for condensing most of a year into two sentences. Carry on.)
I went home with a long list of demands for God. Chief among them, “Lord, tell me who I am and what you want me to do with my life, please and thanks.”
Basically, I assumed that if God was asking me to give up something I loved (Nashville) to spend time away and alone, He was probably going to reward me with A PLAN AND ANSWERS FOR EVERYTHING. Because that's how it works, right?
I felt so burdened by the fact that I didn't really know who I was or where I fit in. I was spending hours of brain power trying to uncover my identity and purpose.
But here is what I learned when I took my sabbatical from life: Identity and purpose are not as complicated as we make them. I for sure do this, and maybe you do to. I assumed my identity was long (long) list of personality traits and quirks and gifts and talents and needs and desires and tastes that needed to be sorted through and organized until I was the best possible version of myself. I assumed my purpose would come, hand-delivered from Jesus, on a piece of fancy parchment paper wrapped up with a snazzy ribbon. I assumed I was the center of the equation.
COULD THAT BE MORE SELF-CENTERED. (Sweet Jesus help me.)
Have you framed the identity question that way, too? In a culture that prizes self-centered soul-searching above all things, it’s hard to do otherwise.
The thing is, God answers us ever ever so graciously. Like He does. Because He is gentle and kind and more than willing to work with our clumsy, clunky attempts at following Him.
Here's what I know, now:
Your identity, at its core, has nothing to do with your personality, gifts, desires or talents. It has everything to do with the gospel.
The fact is you and I are sinners of the highest degree, mercifully saved by grace because Jesus died on a cross. We are not our gifts, our desires, or our personality. Those are things about us, yes, but they are not our core. We are ragamuffins who have been invited to the royal feast and adopted by the King. That is our identity. Plain and simple.
So what of purpose? My fellow millennials understand the bone-deep ache to know what YOUR COOL KINGDOM JOB is supposed to be. Are you kind of just sitting around waiting to be given your marching orders? Or are you, like me, demanding God give you a lighting bolt from heaven? (Bless my diluted little heart.)
Your purpose, at its core, is to love God more and love people well. That's it.
There is a not a treasure map of a rabbit trail that you have to follow in order to fulfill your greatest potential. There is no checklist of things to accomplish. Maybe you’re going to write a book, or have ten kids, or eradicate poverty or start a church. And that’s freaking TIGHT. But you’re not going to get an itinerary from heaven telling you so. Jesus has commanded us to love well and to seek Him. If you’re doing those things, whatever great (or small) job He has for you will be happen without you even thinking of it.
Could it be that in the search for identity and purpose, we have over-complicated something quite simple? The answers to "Who am I?" and "What is my purpose?" won't be found by deep sea diving into the depths of your soul. In case you haven't noticed, the depths of our souls are actually pretty messy. I don't know how much I would trust the information coming out of there, especially as it applies to who I am and what I should be doing with my life. Also, the more time you spend swimming around in the depths, the harder it will be to pull yourself out of total self-obsession.
I thought identity and purpose, the two puzzle pieces that would make me, *me*, were things I had to go looking for. The truth is, friend, we can keep searching for ourselves forever and we'll end up chasing our own tails around in a pointless circle.
The quest is over the minute we come face-to-face with the reality of the gospel. I was a slave, now I am not. He has commanded me to love well, so I will love well. Everything else is icing on the cake.
Stop looking. You don’t need to find yourself. You have been found already.