‘Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?’

What’s your identity? Spouse? Parent? Rodeo clown? Other?

If so, what happens when death or divorce takes your spouse? Your kids leave the nest? You’re forced into early retirement by a 2,000-pound steer?

I suspect millions of people are going through identity crises as the result of layoffs, breakups, accidents, crime, aging and retirement, church closings, disabilities, . . . the list goes on and on.

Who are you?

I’m struggling with my identity as an author and speaker. I haven’t had a book contract for a year and a half. The publishing company for which I’d worked off and on since my sophomore year in college fired all its editors in a dramatic restructuring. My speaking schedule for 2017 is about one-third of what it normally is. And in October, one of my latest books sold 10 (T-E-N) copies!

I have to confess, in early December I was ready to send out invitations for an extravagant pity party. I was missing international travel and speaking at large conferences, signing autographs at booksellers’ conventions, and writing “award-winning” books. I thought I had ceased basing my identity on being an author and speaker back in the 90s after reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning:

      Make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself
      radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth.

However, my identity—in what I do, rather than who (and whose) I am—began being squeezed into the world’s image of what is successful and desirable. (Apparently, I’m an elephant. I have to be retaught life lessons repeatedly!)

Two weeks ago, while peddling away to Pandora, Jeremy Camp sang these convicting words:

      In this obsession with the things this world says make us happy
      Can’t see the slaves we are in all the searching all the grasping
      Like we deserve much more than all these blessing we’re holding
      So now I’m running free into an ocean of mercy unending

      So come and empty me
      So that it’s you I breathe
      I want my life to be
      Only Christ in me.

Then Francesca Battistelli reminded me:

      I don’t need my name in lights
      I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
      Make no mistake
      He knows my name
      I’m not living for applause
      I’m already so adored
      It’s all His stage
      He knows my name.

That was followed by reading Ann Voskamp’s encouraging blog:

      [W]hen your identity is in Christ, your identity is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

      Criticism can’t change it. Failing can’t shake it. Lists can’t determine it.

      When your identity is in the Rock, your identity is rock-solid. As long as God is for you, it doesn’t matter what mountain rises ahead of you.

Whose are you?

So, during this time, I’ve been trying to view myself simply as a “friend of Jesus.”

Instead of writing books, I’ve been writing new releases as volunteer communications pastor at my church.

Instead of speaking to conferences, I’ve been handling hundreds of phone calls at the church as it hosts 2,000 guests for a Christmas party and sends them home with 1,000 boxes filled with Christmas dinner.

Instead of driving to the airport, I’ve been driving a friend, with a broken-down car, to work.

And instead of being interviewed on TV, I’ve been answering wonderful, profound questions of my granddaughters.

Okay, it’s not glamorous, but I’m slowly finding it fulfilling. I’m slowly understanding that following Jesus is not about being an award-winning author and globe-trotting speaker, but “unworthy servants who have simply done [their] duty” (Luke 17:10).

Has a life event shattered your identity? To be perfectly honest, that change can be hurtful and humiliating. But I want to assure you that you can embrace a new identity that is “rock solid.” Life events cannot affect your eternal identity as an unconditionally loved friend of Jesus.

I am slowly, but surely learning to find joy and purpose in that simple title: friend of Jesus. I’m finding—and you will, too—Jesus’ values and priorities are infinity superior to everything the world counts as valuable and prestigious.

With you in this journey,

Friend of Jesus

Copyright © 2016 James N. Watkins

More on friendship with God:

      The Lord is a friend to those who fear him (Psalm 25:14).

      The Lord . . . offers his friendship to the godly (Proverbs 3:32).

      For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:10-11).

      Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God (1 John 4:7)..

      “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20).

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Are you listening to Goliath or God?
I can’t “do all things”
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Turning your “shaft” into a mine
When you don’t succeed

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