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WHY Identity is important to Understand in the midst of a Pandemic…

  1. Why is identity important?

When the world goes through a pandemic that affects the economy, the culture and family life, our whole inner world will shake and in the shaking, our external validations of how we achieve approval and success may be shaken. Inherently at the heart of every human being the question arises: Am I GOOD ENOUGH?

Am I really good enough when I am faced with challenges that I have never had to face before?

Understanding your identity and the value you have, is essential to answering this question.

See, who I AM is NOT inherent upon what I DO.

I could lie here all day, every day and I would still be ME. I could completely self-isolate, distance myself physically and emotionally from any other human being and not stay connected in any way, shape or form… but if someone came along and shot me dead, they would still be accountable for murder. EVEN IF, I didn’t have one person come to my funeral, or grieve my loss– just because I have inherent value as a human being, the person that killed me would be held responsible for the crime of taking away my life- because I am valuable.

Why am I valuable? I am valuable and I have an identity because I was made by a Creator God who designed me so thoughtfully, that my very existence on this planet warrants my worth.

My ABILITIES and how I use them, on the other hand, are my RESPONSE to the environment into which I am placed. They are my responsibilities.

So imagine that in one of the hands I am holding up is your identity and in the other hand are your responsibilities 🙂

My ability to learn, to play, to relate, to observe, to listen, to create, to explore, to develop, to risk, to love, to believe- these are all hinged upon the choices I make in response to the opportunities around me. Whether or not I use my abilities for the benefit of others, the betterment of myself or the detriment of either one, is up to me. I have been given free will and I really get to decide the outcome of my own destiny.

Life is all about choices. It is estimated that we make, on average, 35,000 choices a day. Each choice has a consequence and each consequence has an affect on layers of platforms.

The problem comes when our decisions start to attach themselves to our identity. It’s so easy for our lives to be consumed by the things that have value in the society in which we live. For some societies, that’s education, for others it’s external beauty and fashion and trends, for others it’s social status or castes, for others it’s marital status, some offspring, others careers, material accumulation, real estate portfolio, stock market investments, emotional intelligence… the list could go on.

Whatever our society, or community or even close family place value on, often gets embedded into the idealism of what value we place on ourselves.

We think, if I have enough money, then I’m good enough. If I have an hour glass figure, I’m good enough. If I have the nicest car or the highest level of education, or the best marriage or the dream career, then I. Am. Good. Enough.

But all of these things are additions. When you were made as you and born into the world, your Creator made a statement.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good..”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:27, 31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God didn’t say anything was very good up until that point. Every day He had spoken something new into existence but when He completes the process with a woman, He emphasises how good it all is. It’s good enough for Him to sit back and rest. He didn’t go on the next day trying to adapt or perfect what He had created the day before, so we have to assume it was good enough. And if it was good enough for God, it- humanity- YOU are Good Enough!

In that whole process, God created seasons and in different seasons of life, knowing your identity is about knowing that you are still the same. And the you that makes you you, is the you that God loves. His love for you is not conditional on what you do. The problem with attaching our identity to the things we do, is that in every season of life, we are often called to do different things. Different seasons demand different settings. Like the settings on your phone which are interchangeable for whatever environment you are in (flight mode or silent mode, having wifi on when you can pick it up or using data when you’re out and about), so are the settings in our life interchangeable as our environment changes.

Different seasons in life also affect the way we make choices. We can make choices as a child that would be so different to how we made them as an adult. There are a myriad of things that contribute to the way in which we make our choices. From family of origin dysfunction to hormonal changes, to sleep deprivation to dietary intake to mental wellness or social pressure or financial situation or spiritual misconceptions or deceptions… all of these external factors can play a major role in the choices we make- that’s why it’s so important to distinguish your identity- your being, from your choices- your doing.

In the next session I’ll talk about some of the consequences of meshing these two together.

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Stay Home and Be at Home with You

You.

You’re really the only person that has been with you every moment of every day since the first day of your being.

You are a human being. Created for a purpose that your baby self was oblivious to, but your now self is maybe more aware of. But who you are, is the foundation of what that looks like.

Identity and purpose go hand in hand because until you fully understand who you are, how you were created specifically to operate, to think, to believe, to passionately engage in the world and with who you best engage, you really can’t BE all you were created to BE.

So in this space of being at home, maybe by yourself, maybe, like me, surrounded by a bunch of crazy animals (haha), you can find a sacred space to enter into, to discover the YOU you were meant to be. This is the process of the Rite of Passage- building a foundation to stand on your own two feet, to know that all that is WITHIN YOU is ENOUGH to fulfil all that IS AHEAD OF YOU.

Maybe home looks like this right now- a house full of screens connecting you to the outside world

LETS START WITH IDENTITY.

DEFINITION: The fact of being who or what a person or thing is. (Oxford Dictionary)

So essentially our identity is who we are at the core of our being. It’s our unique finger print on the canvas of the world- (if we can imagine the window of history we get to live in displaying a masterpiece of finger painted proportions.) It is who we are intrinsically as we enter the world. It’s the part of us that will stay the same no matter what gets attached to us.

I love the mathematical definition of identity –

  • an equation that is valid for all values of its variables.
  • Also called identity element, unit element, unity. an element in a set such that the element operating on any other element of the set leaves the second element unchanged.

This could be transferred to our identity too: that is valid for all valuables of its variables.

See when we enter the world, we will have things added to us.. many variables that seek to define who we are, that are actually just additions to our original value. For example:

A name. Yet some of us have a name and some of us don’t. A beautiful little girl we met in the cafe of our church in Ethiopia (not a cafe like we see in the west but a mud clad space on the front of the property that opened up to the many brothels and bars that lined the street). We asked her what her name was and she replied “Mita” which is kinda like calling someone “Bubba”- not a real name but a term of endearment. So we asked her mum, what her name was and she said she couldn’t remember her name, so she just called her Mita or she would call her Cockroach- not a name we were going to let her hold for long, so we called her Bereket which meant Blessing. But whether or not you have a name, your identity is still valid because though a name may be valuable, and in some cultures more valuable than others, it is still a variable on your identity. It doesn’t make you who you are.

More things get added to us, like- parents. Some of us get one parent when we are born, some get two, others get a whole village while some end up in an orphanage… does it change who we are at our core? No. That’s not part of our identity.

Some of us have an education added to us, but some of us don’t. Some have opportunities in childhood to experience other activities like sports or clubs, performing arts or things like Girl Scouts.. many people get so passionate about their ability to participate in those things, but they, still are variables on the spectrum of our lifestyle. Adding to the equation but not subtracting to our identity. Intrinsically, we are still the same person whether or not we have the opportunity to participate in these activities.

In adulthood, some have more education added, like degrees or doctorates, trade skills or business acumen. Doors can open for you to gain experience and qualifications having more things added to your portfolio of life but those things in and of themselves are just additions and not all will have them added. It doesn’t make one more valuable at the core of who they are because at any stage, those things could be taken away- through sickness or accidents causing memory loss or brain damage, intellectual disability or lack. Businesses and vocations can be thwarted by economic climates or poor financial management. Outside circumstances can sabotage these very things that so often have just been added to the core of who we are. They haven’t changed the validity of the identity that was established in conception.

Relationships can also be added to us or not. Finding a life partner or a group of friends are other variables that add to the value of our human experience. We are indeed created for relationship. But some of us have better interpersonal skills than others, some are just socially awkward. Some of us have had bad experiences and base our acquisition of new formed relationships on that of our former experiences and somewhat hinder the fullness of what COULD be added.. but in the end, it’s still just a variable.

Material possessions are another contributory factor. We can obtain material wealth by inheritance or we could be positioned in countries and companies that allow us to accumulate financial assets. Some of us do this by hard work and others can do this by outlandish gifting. Some are intelligent in strategy while others are more intelligent in production. Some of us don’t think we can have access to good things while others would accept nothing less. But all of these factors are variables on the global scale. Foreign currencies are futile, global markets are based upon forever changing trends. The value of gold, oil and cars are becoming less important than air, water and land in this climate changing society. They, too, are variable in how they add to our human experience.

I hope you’re getting it now. Your identity is the thing about you that will never change, NO MATTER WHAT is added or taken away from you. It’s the intrinsic part of you that makes you valuable and worthy. You are who you are because a unique set of DNA was put together to add value to the world. Whether you end up a bum on the street or a princess in the palace, you are still you.

We can hear rags to riches stories of people making it in the entertainment industry. It’s the gift they have that gets them there but there is always a story about connections and set backs, sacrifice and determination. Who they are hasn’t changed but their exposure to the world has. They have become more known by the general public. However, they are still the same person. Whether or not they achieve notoriety or an Oscar award, it doesn’t change who they are. Their primary school teacher will still remember certain things about them that have stayed the same throughout their lifetime. It is this thing that stays the same- the you that makes you you- no matter how age or diet has changed your appearance – no matter how little or much you have accumulated – no matter what you have achieved or haven’t achieved due to illness or laziness or oppression. These things do not make you who you are. Your identity is locked up in you. We all have an identity. It’s what makes us the same as a common humanity and it’s what makes us the same on the spectrum of our life span. Identity is the foundation of everything we do. It’s the common factor in the equation of our life. So knowing who you are and being secure in your identity is key to living a healthy and happy life.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:13-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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How you can turn an External Pandemic into an Internal Rite of Passage

Its really hard to be an optimist in times like these- when the whole world is on HOLD while a deadly virus is slowly losing its grip on humanity. But what if the humanity that exists in you has the opportunity in this time to eradicate the diseases that have lingered in your life for too long. I’m not talking about medical diseases…but diseases of the heart- distortions in the way you think, believe and act.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

As I searched for words for the message I wanted to convey in this blog (a blog I wrote last year when I was going through my own transition) I wanted a description that would hold the weight of its magnitude.

To the degree that this pandemic is spreading around the globe right now, is the opportunity for an extreme makeover to happen in your heart. Its PANDEMIC. Its for all and its universal. Only within the space of such a drastic upheaval of all that we have known before, can we reestablish something new.

Dictionary.com describes “Rites of passage” as ceremonies that mark important transitional periods that “usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles.

Lets face it. The world has just been stripped of a lot of our “freedoms” that we naturally take for granted.

The freedom to breathe,

to congregate,

to drive,

to eat out,

to learn in a classroom,

to leave our kids in care,

to go to work,

to marry and to grieve in the presence of loved ones.

What its going to do in the process, whether you like it or not, is strip you of elements of your life that you have attached to your identity, and potentially result in an exasperation of your addictions.

Addictions are often our default when our identity is not secure. Addictions come about to regulate our emotions when we can’t manage them, giving us temporary comfort from unhealthy triggers. So what I want to do this week, is to talk about identity and help you to navigate any unexpected “stripping” of old roles (roles you have played in society, in your family or your workplace) so that you can create pathways for the new “roles” you’re about to take on.

In Australia, traditional custodians of the land, have had a Rite of Passage we know as the “Walkabout”. This is where a young boy (traditionally from the age of 10-16) goes on a walk by himself into the wilderness for a period of up to six months. Here he establishes his manhood and familiarises himself with an independent lifestyle in which he becomes spiritually and emotionally aware.

Even though there might not be a ceremony or a long journey a part from your family, this six month (or however long it may be) journey of self-isolation, could be your chance to journey into “adulthood” and emotional maturity. The feelings that arise in you as you become more introspective instead of socially involved, could just build the bridge for the internal Rite of Passage you never had- stripping you of all of your external support systems so that your inner world is strong.

When you’re struggling to just BE you, and the best version of YOU, my prayer is that this blog will allow you sit comfortably in your own skin and learn to dig deep into the crevices of your soul that still thirst for healing and wholeness.

Get ready.

Part 1 is coming tomorrow: Stay Home and Be at Home with You.