The promise in Ezekiel 36:26-27 is encouraging and significant. It means that I am no longer who I once was; it means that although my life began with a heart of stone, I have been made new. Being in Christ means that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. My identity is no longer in my rebellion, in my vain pursuit of success, in my selfishness. As one of the race of Adam, I am by nature hard-hearted and resistant. I am concerned chiefly with myself and my own comfort. I am deceitful, secretive, obstinate.The beauty of being in Christ is that all of that becomes who I was, and no longer has a place in who I am. Being in Christ means being free from the enslavement of who I was. I am no longer bound to my nature; I am bound to Jesus Christ and his Spirit in me. I am freed from living solely for myself. I am freed from the futility of a life that terminates on temporal things. I am freed to be in relationship with my Creator, my Savior, my King,the way that I was designed to be. The parts of my soul that long to worship no longer have to restlessly search for a worthy object; they are focused where they belong, and in that there is peace. In Christ, it is possible for me to leave my life of sin. In my own nature, freedom was never an option. Far beyond correcting my behavior and actions, He has made me new, and He is making me new.
The world we live in screams that our identity is found in our talents, in our pastimes, in our appearance. We are what we do. We are who we’re with. We are what we like. The problem with all of these identities is that they are temporary. They belong to our bodies and not to our souls. When any of these identities comes to an end, we are set adrift, floating aimlessly until we arrive at the next available identity to latch onto. We cling to jobs and relationships and possessions far more desperately than we ought because we view them as a vital part of who we are. We are encouraged to define ourselves by the size of our bank accounts and the size of our waists. We devote our lives to maintaining appearances because without them, we are lost. There is no stability, no hope beyond what we can sustain. In Christ, our identity rests not in who we are, but in who He is. We have been justified and adopted as sons and daughters and heirs to the King. We have hope in the faithfulness and promises of the Most High. Our redemption is not a result of our own desperation, and we cannot lose it any more than we could grasp it in the first place. Our identity no longer depends upon ourselves; it depends upon the One who gave us new life.
In my life, I have found my identity in countless places. I have considered myself chiefly a woman, a daughter, an intelligent person. In my life before Christ, I found glory in my shame, finding my identity in my ability to manipulate people, my condescension, and my ability to deceive. In more recent years, I have been tempted to find my identity in my roles instead– as student, teacher, friend, employee, sister, wife. And always, my relationships with people have played far greater a role than they should in determining my perception of who I am. This tendency has damaged several relationships in my life, in cases where people had too strong a hold on my identity. Even in Christ, when my identity and position are sure and renewed, I am tempted to lay claim on countless other things to define me. The consistency among all the things I have sought to define myself is that they have all failed me. My roles or positions have come to an end; there has been someone better than me at my chosen pursuits; my relationships have altered or disintegrated. In my sin, I return to them again and again, hoping for them to fulfill me. Freedom from this cycle of disappointment is found only in Christ, in the identity He has given me as one of His own, a new creation in Him. In Christ there is rest for my soul and peace in the work he has completed in me and will bring to completion one day.
Most of my roles since moving to Dallas are new to me – the roles of “teacher” and “wife” especially. Both of these can be consuming in time and thought. It is difficult not to consider myself based solely on these things when most of my waking hours are spent in one of these roles. When my identity is placed in these things, I find myself losing patience more quickly, feeling hopeless and consistently discouraged. When my hope and identity are secured in Christ, I experience freedom to pursue excellence in these roles without being defined by them. I need to be reminded of this constantly. Left on my own, I drift backwards toward self-sufficiency and hopelessness. The beauty of the body of Christ is that I am not left on my own. There are others to remind me that who I am is rooted in Christ and His love for me. Having the opportunity to remind and encourage others in that same truth sharpens and refreshes me. Being in Christ means that my identity is placed solely in Him, as a daughter of the Most High and a member of the body of Christ, both crucial elements in the new creation He has made.