Identity is a strange thing. It is something that should be obvious but can be strangely mysterious. There are many, especially the young, who are going through an identity crisis. One dictionary defines identity crisis as a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure or unstable. An identity crisis usually occurs when there’s a change in a persons life, and can also be due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. An identity crisis is a type of existential crisis. Existential crises generally have to do with questions and inner conflicts about the meaning and purpose of life. As thinking beings, reason and purpose have a central role to play in how we go about life.
I am by nature prone to overthinking. I need ‘reasons why…’ in order to make sense of my surroundings. Most of the time it was ‘easy’ to find answers, but what was difficult to find were satisfactory answers. What makes an answer or a ‘reason’ satisfactory or agreeable? Well, the credibility of the source of the answer plays a critical role. Something else that plays a critical role is instinct or intuition. When observation, credible sources, and intuition or instinct all agree on a ‘reason why…’ a conclusion becomes a rock-solid conviction. Now a problem arises when the results of observations are inconsistent, credible sources provide contradictory reasons, and intuition or instinct seems to be in an especially dull state for whatever reason. When that happens you have a crisis on your hands on how to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion on the ‘reason why….’ That is the story of the challenge of identity and existential crises. But would it make a difference if there was only one credible source that was absolute – like God? Yes! With an absolutely credible source, dulled intuition or instinct will wake up to reason, and inconsistency in observation can chalked up to reasons largely inconsequential to the conclusion to be made or the ‘reason why…’ at hand. In a sense, the answer provided by a absolutely credible source goes beyond reason and cuts through observations and intuition.
In Matthew 16:13-19, Jesus asks His disciples a very interesting question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and also, “Who do you say I am?” Jesus did not ask these questions because He was suffering from a crisis of identity, because even as He asked the first question, He identified Himself as ‘the Son of Man’. Jesus was absolutely sure about who He was, and He certain about His purpose on earth. As can be seen in His response to Peter’s answer to His second question, Jesus asked this question because there was a part of His identity that was hitherto hidden from public view. It was a part of His identity that could only be revealed to a person by God. Knowledge of this hidden identity, when obtained or revealed or understood, would bring revelation and clarity about a person’s own identity and purpose. Like in the case of Peter, God revealed to Peter who Jesus truly was (His identity as the Son of God, and His purpose as the Christ, the anointed one who saves), and by the fact that Peter obtained that knowledge, Jesus revealed to Peter who he, Peter, really was and the purpose of his life. I believe one of the purposes of Jesus’ enquiry was to teach us that, we can only truly find out about and know ourselves when we first seek, find, and know Him. The secret to our identity and the purpose for our existence is directly linked to our knowing who He is…knowing who Jesus is; but not as the world knows Him, not as others know Him, but as has been revealed to us or as we have come to understand Him by the mercies of God, who draws us in and enables us to seek until we find.
You may be a teenager or an adolescent; you may be a young man or a young woman, you may be a father or a mother, or even a grandparent reading this little essay of mine today. You may have found some other way to resolve this crisis in the past, or you may currently be in the midst of this struggle about identity, or you may not have asked yourself these questions yet; but you do not need to wait until you are caught in the crisis before you start to seek for answers. Begin today to seek the Lord. Desire to know who He is. Search for and pant after Him, and when you find Him, you will find your identity and purpose in Him. I want to encourage someone today not to give up on the search for who Jesus is. Don’t give up on finding your identity or the purpose for your existence. Don’t give up on living because everything seems meaningless. Don’t give in to depression and the frustrations of life. God had a plan and purpose for you when He created you. Continue to seek Him, and you will find Him, and you will find your true self also.
#Acts 9:3-6, 10-16