I’m discovering something painful. I am unremarkable. One of the crowd.
‘Find your identity in God, nothing else.’
So they told me as a teenager. And so I did. I tried not to care about exams, about my appearance, about popularity, about grades, about what I owned, about what I wore, about anything except that I was a child of God, and that was what made me someone.
It was super easy. I didn’t get what the fuss was about. Why did people find it so hard to find their identity in God, not in the things of the world? It was great having an identity in God! One big ego trip: I’m loved! I’m cherished! I’m adored! He died for me! I have a purpose! I can do great things! God could change the course of history through me!
Of course it was easy.
I didn’t have to worry about my grades. Since infants school, I was coming top of my class. I was reading books meant for kids older than me. I went to summer schools, and looked forward to parents’ evenings. When you’re academically achieving, it’s easy to find your identity in God.
I had all the people I needed around. I had friends at school, friends at church, friends at youth group. The house was rarely empty, I had no need to be lonely. At university, my favourite people were but a stone’s throw away, and there was always someone happy to see me. When people seem on your side, it’s easy to carve an identity in God.
For a while, I knew I weighed under a certain amount, and I wanted to keep it that way. When the world tells you you fit into a certain category called ‘thin’, it’s easy to think your identity is in God.
Sometimes I write a post that more people than usual share, and I get more page views than I’d normally expect. When social media says you’re interesting or talented, it’s easy to say your identity is in God.
It’s easy to say that who I am is who God says I am, when the world is impressed with me too.
But the world is a fickle beast. Everything can change in just a few moves. Everything that makes me me.
What about when I’m not great at my work, making the same mistakes that I have been for months?
What about when someone offers me their seat on the tube because they think I’m pregnant?
What about when no-one picks me as their new housemate?
What about when I get job rejections and interview rejections, again and again?
What about when the rolls of fat start to spill out over my jeans?
What about when people stop clicking on my blog links, or criticise what they see?
What about when everyone else can do it better than me?
What about when I’m a tiny, tiny fish in a very big ocean?
What about when I look so tired that people ask if I’m getting ill?
What about when my dreams seem impossibly out of reach?
What about when ‘when I grow up’ isn’t a world of possibility but worry heaped upon uncertainty?
What about when my faith isn’t ‘mature for my age’ but full of questions and doubts and other people’s concerns?
When I’m unremarkable and unimpressive, where does my identity lie?
It’s when the rubber hits the road, and push comes to shove, and the pudding finally eaten and proved. It’s when those words that were so easy to trot out, the ego-boosting clichés from youth groups of old, are tested through the fire and through the tears.
Known before I was formed in the womb.
Fearfully and wonderfully made.
A new creation.
Raised up and made alive with Christ.
Given the right to be called a child of God.
Lavished with the Father’s love.
His workmanship, his masterpiece.
Sealed with his Holy Spirit.
Chosen as an heir of the kingdom.
If those words mean anything, anything at all, they’ve got to mean it when I’m unremarkable. It’s when I’m not affirmed by the world that God’s affirmation rings loud and true, uncompromising and unapologetic. His words about who I am are a blanket statement, not a comparison with others, not a progress check, not a value judgement.
If I never achieve anything ever again, they’ll be true.
If I never hear another compliment again, they’ll be true.
If no-one picks me, for their house or their job or as their wife, they’ll still be true.
It’s the love of God that’s remarkable. No question.