The Tension of My Identity
I’ve been told I’m depraved. Broken. Less than whole. Filled with a sinful nature. I’ve been told I’ll never be good enough, my good acts will never wash away the stain of sin that separated me from God. On my own, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at attaining holiness. I’ve got original sin seeping through every pore of my spirituality, and I’m never going to be cured of it.
That is all true.
That’s not who I am, that’s not the identity that I claim, and it’s not the identity that is true of me. My identity is a beloved child of God. My identity is someone who has worth and value in the eyes of the Lord, and my identity is someone who is accepted, already accepted, for exactly who I am.
These two ideas describe a strange and confusing paradox to live out. On the one hand, I must remind myself that as a human being, I’m very much so predisposed to sin. Even as a believer in Christ, righteousness done on my own strength is still “filthy rags”. That truth is still the reality.
But it is also true that God sanctifies me. The Holy Spirit has a place in me, and righteous acts done in obedience to God are good, no matter how small or large they are or how deeply they impact the world around me. And these acts are a result of surrender. And I think, more deeply than that, they are a result of me claiming my identity as God’s child.
So I don’t think either view of myself ought to be discarded. I must remember that my nature is broken and predisposed to sinfulness, because that keeps me humble, keeps me from trying to live right on my own. And remembering my identity is not brokenness—my identity is wrapped up in God’s love for me—gives me the will to surrender to him, and be his vessel, and let him work through me to accomplish his will.
So I’m going to live in the tension of these two opposite extremes, and embrace them both, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. Because both are true, and I think both are necessary to growth in Christ.