There is a lesser-known Disney film from 1963 that tells an adapted story of King Arthur. The movie is called The Sword in the Stone. In it, we meet a young, orphaned Arthur. He is shy and unsure of himself, but wants to do his best at whatever task is set before him. His foster family constantly barrages him with verbal abuse, telling Arthur that he’s nothing more than a lowly attendant for his foster brother.
It’s a far cry from the king and leader of legend.
In the Disney story, the wizard Merlin — knowing that Arthur is the future king of England — befriends and mentors him, encouraging the boy to learn and explore. In doing so, Arthur gradually becomes more aware of himself and what he is capable of doing. Bit by bit, he grows comfortable and confident in himself, and more prepared for his destiny as king.
Our lives don’t exactly play out like this fantastical old film, but there are some themes about identity that we can certainly relate to here. As we live and journey, we uncover more of who God made us to be. Yet we also assume layers of other identities, ones that are untrue or distorted.
We are often left wondering who we are meant to be, and what it is that keeps us from realizing that.
Put away all falsehood
It is difficult and sometimes painful work to detach ourselves from the layers of false identities we gather over a lifetime. It is easier to use what is most convenient to self-identify: “I’m a wife, son, pastor, American, millennial…” and so on. Or we assume identities that are just not true: “I’m a failure, alone, unloved.”
Too often we depend on these false identities to define us. But the truth is that they do not give the full or real picture of our God-wired, God-created identity.
Consider this: What is it that you most often use to identify yourself? Some of these may not be immediately obvious, so spend time ruminating.
When do you feel most confident and secure?
What role do you play that you would be most nervous to fail at?
Which “image” that you project to others is most valuable to you?
Taking it a step further, where do you think these identities come from — yourself or someone else? And what if you stripped away those layers of false and incomplete identities? What would be left?
Own your true identity
It’s not about what job title you hold, which role you serve in your church, where you live, or what you’ve accomplished. It is not that these parts of your life don’t matter, but that hidden beneath all of those layers is your true identity: a beloved child of God, his workmanship, a new creation in Christ.
Ironically, our true identity can be the most challenging one for us to assume.
It is hard to wrap our minds around the idea that God created us simply to be in relationship with him, that he loves us regardless of what we do, and that he accepts us exactly as we are.
Yet the more we practice assuming this true identity and internalizing it, the more we can experience the freedom that comes with knowing who we are. Joy increases, opportunities arise, and our relationship with our Creator God deepens when we are rooted in the truth of who we were designed to be.
Be your true self
Here are a few ways to "practice" living in the truth of your identity as God's beloved.
1. Share with the Lord what false and incomplete identities you think you have assumed. Practice recognizing what roles, titles, labels, or accomplishments you use to define yourself, and then release each one to God. Remember to always ask where those identities might come from.
2. Look to Scripture to see what God says about who you really are. Read and meditate over Psalm 139, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, John 15:16-17, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 2:10, or Galatians 2:20. Perhaps journal or spend time in prayer, processing with the Lord your response to what his Word says about you.
3. Pray the Prayer of Recollection. This historic prayer can be prayed at the start or end of each day, or a few times a week. It is a discipline for opening yourself to God’s presence, releasing false identities, and tuning into your identity in Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cat Caya and her husband, Jim, are a part of Ethne. They live and work in Kenya, consulting on leadership development, communications, and business initiatives for an NGO with operations in East Africa.