My four-year-old man-child is going through this bizarre phase right now. He pretends to have disabilities, exploring his world through a different lens. Yesterday, he slipped both arms inside his shirt and proclaimed himself limbless, but his recent fascination has him experimenting with blindness. He closes his eyes and feels around for his fork, his shoes, etc. Honestly, I’m not sure how to respond, but knowing children, the phase will pass quickly enough if I don’t make a big deal about it.
For kids, identity shifts as a fluid notion. They pretend to be dragons, cheetahs, queens, superheroes, and monsters. They imagine they are grown-up with jobs and children of their own. They wear tutus, tiaras, and armor. Their world is one of imagination and possibilities and wonder.
We as adults don’t usually dress up, but we still catch ourselves pretending to be something we aren’t. We role-play to impress, to land a job, to awe the opposite sex, to secure a position of need. We detach from our true worth, searching for value in circumstances that are constantly in flux.
Recently confronted with a flaw in my identity, I dropped to my knees and started crying. Lord, you know my insecurities and where I tend to put my worth. I want to trust you–to know that I’m enough because of You, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of not being enough, of being dismissed and discarded. I’m afraid of letting go of these ways I “prove” myself.
The night before, I’d read Ephesians 1. As the Lord brought the verses to mind, I sensed the overarching questions: do I believe this truth applies? Do I carry it over into my life? Am I living like I believe?
Until I secure my value in what God has done instead of what I can do, my identity will be as stable as a boat on the stormy seas.
When our children were younger, my husband would tell them things like, “You are so smart! You are beautiful. You are so cute.” And they would respond with, “I know.” He’d laugh at their apparent lack of humility. To many, their responses may sound arrogant, but truthfully, they didn’t know to think contrary to what we’d told them, because the whole of their understanding came from what we’d said. They knew they were smart or kind or beautiful because numerous times before we had spoken that truth over them. To a child, it makes the most sense to believe and hold fast to the identity their parents proclaim.
As God’s children, we have two choices: we can choose to search for value in our performance (plus the assessments of those around us) or we can choose to rest our identity in the heart of a loving Father who says, you are mine, you are chosen, you are redeemed, you are sealed with me, you are loved. When we secure our worth to Him, our sense of identity doesn’t falter with every failure or tailspin over every discouraging word. We know who we are because He has told us.