Identity. It’s the foundation that drives one forward into destiny. In contrast, a lack of revelation of one’s identity will lead to despair. Identity is the understanding of the great value we have and who we belong to. It comes to us not by education, but revelation. It’s more caught than it is taught. The heart has to embrace it. It’s not something we can just “know” in our minds.
People are told to “believe in themselves” by mass marketing, educators, motivational speakers and even preachers. ”You can do it! Just believe you can!” This is something everyone deserves to have; an encounter with the beauty within that comes from the very image of the Creator. However, identity and belief in oneself was never meant to be an individual process. You can wake up in the morning determined to believe in your personal value all you want, but the minute you step out your door, that belief will be tried, tested and come directly against by:
- your own doubts and assumptions about yourself
- mis-reading (or correctly reading) someone’s negative body language or look towards you
- sometimes downright cruelty
- discouraging words
- the list could go on
By the time you arrive home in the evening, every ounce of determination you had to “believe in yourself” has been sucked out, leaving you feeling defeated. Clearly, we can’t do this on our own, can we?
It’s because we were never meant to have identity reinforced by our own selves.
I know what you’re thinking the answer is: God. Yes, God is the one who confirms who and whose we are. Above all, this is truth, however God has chosen a means by which He desires to see this become a reality in our lives and in the lives of those around us. God IS community: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He puts us in families to learn how to become more like Him. He has a dream of having us be a part of his family, his kingdom. In his family, there is a way he loves to see identity revealed, confirmed and continually reinforced, making us strong to be able to face our giants. How?
Allow me to explain by giving an example of the power people’s words have on us. My son came home from school today telling me how worthless he is. After some prodding I found out that there’s a boy who tells my son on a daily basis that he hates him. He could live with that to a certain point, but today, his good friend decided to speak the same way to him. This destroyed his spirit. No matter how many times I tell my son to not care about what other people think about him, I know it’s almost virtually impossible for anyone to absolutely not care about what others think – especially those we call friends.
The intention God had for community was to reinforce and strengthen identity and value in one another. It was meant to become a shelter, a safe place for those who’ve had a rough day. When haters come in droves, the community protects, builds up and provides rest for the crushed soul. Courage floods a heart when 20 others speak words of life into your spirit. Who doesn’t thrive in an atmosphere of safety and belonging?
However, there are many who are struggling in this fight alone. All you have to do is scroll through a news feed on facebook to see numerous status updates stating something along the lines of; “When haters hate, it only makes me stronger” type of statements. Somehow, we’ve taken on the role of self protection which has driven us all into isolated caves with protective walls so high no one could ever see in.
Ironically, our self protection keeps the greatness inside caged in us as well.
Greatness is released fully in community. It’s released when others call out my destiny. When they hold me accountable not to “shouldn’ts” but to my identity, I thrive. When I can fail and not be shamed, but applauded for trying, I’m more likely to try again. When my community doesn’t let me sit on my arse because they are just as committed to my success as I am, I push past my own limitations faster.
I see this reality as I reflect back on where I would be if it it weren’t for the people who invested into me, spoke words of life into my heart and told me to stop being so lazy and get moving. In myself, I don’t have what it takes to move me the way they were able to. God used them in ways I will never forget.
When we build communities that become safe places that speak life, people thrive and become courageous. it produces something that individuals cannot do, and were never meant to be able to produce on their own.
It’s hard to find a community like this so I’ve decided to BE that kind of community to others around me. Slowly I’ve been finding others who want to be this as well. We can create this kind of culture by choosing to create it. I am proud to be a part of two amazing communities that do this: The Redbud Writers Guild, where a bunch of amazing women write in community and bring out the best in one another rather than competing, and The Lab – an urban arts space for youth where we will be providing a place of safe community for youth to experience all I have mentioned.
Community like this is waiting for people like us to create it.