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You’ve just been introduced to someone for the first time. There are a couple of niceties exchanged and then without fail, almost on cue, here it comes … “And what do you do for a living?”
Of course you have to answer that question because that’s our social norm. And in the back of your head, you know that their perception of your worth is going to be based on what you tell them you do.
That’s where things get dicey because once you say what you do, the assumption is that’s who you are.
It’s your identity.
Now if you're a CEO or a Manager, that’s a win. Or a radio personality with fans or a PD with big numbers or an artist who helped give you the big numbers, then you probably feel pretty good about what you do and consequently who they think you are.
But deep down you already know that what you do is not really who you are. That is not your true identity.
So what is? And if what you do is not who you are then do you really know who you are? And would your answer be the same as what others would say about who you are?
There is not a single one of us who doesn’t ask this question of themselves at some point in life: “Who am I?”
For years I never really bothered to think that through because I was too busy doing what I do. Maybe true for you as well. And the longer you do what you do, the more you are identified with that role in life.
WIthout intending it, my personal name, Todd Isberner and my company name, ShareMedia and what we did in fundraising, became one and the same.
It wasn’t until years later when I was considering selling my company that it dawned on me I had been letting the real Todd be replaced by the ShareMedia fundraising Todd.
I let my worth and my value be determined by the stuff I got done. And since the stuff I got done seemed to have a good impact in ministry, I was letting it shape my identity.
Can you relate? Be honest with yourself. Do people identify you by what you do in the role you play, or who you are and how you live your life?
Do they think of you as a compassionate, loving, grace giving follower of Jesus who is always eager to give encouragement and lift up others above yourself? Do they see you as a loving husband and dad, a faithful and grateful employee and co-worker, someone who is willing to go the extra mile without ever mentioning it?
Are you so identified as dead to yourself and alive in Christ that you can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Nothing we do can replace who we are and what we are becoming. That has been God’s plan from the beginning and the reason God has placed us here.
But in the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, it’s hard to keep that perspective.
So here are a few suggestions on how you can recalibrate your thinking about your true identity:
Write out and memorize your answer to the question “Who am I?” I am ….
Ask a few of your closest family and friends who they think you are.
The next time you’re asked, “What do you do for a living?” talk first about who you are apart from your role at work.
Ask the Lord to show you more clearly your true identity and who He is shaping you to become.
Write out a few sentences you want included in your eulogy emphasizing who you believe you became during your lifetime.
I’ll leave you with a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “Gladiator.” I think it helps illustrate the difference between a role and true identity.
The imprisoned and supposedly dead Maximus has been fighting in the colosseum as a Gladiator. Known only as “Spaniard,” he became a crowd favorite by defeating Rome’s highly trained elite gladiators. He was a warrior. It’s what he did.
His true identity had been hidden until he was commanded by the emperor to reveal himself. With every eye riveted on him as he stood in the middle of the coliseum, He slowly removes his helmet and turns around to face Commodus and says:
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
I encourage you to remove your helmet (or mask), acknowledge your assignment in life, but declare your true identity and who you are becoming.