I’ve always been a bit of a movie and TV watcher. And I have always been inclined toward the brilliant hero characters. There is just something so intriguing about watching the hero do what he does best, be super awesome. Whether it is Neal Caffery from White Collar, Tony Stark from Iron Man, Michael Scofield from Prison Break, or my favorite, Sherlock Holmes, they all have something in common, they are awesome and I have always wanted to be like them. I have always wanted to be a Sherlock Holmes, someone who’s got it all together, someone who is clever, someone who is exceptional.
I switched schools a few times growing up so by the time I made it into 6th grade, I had zero friends. I found myself, like many people, working hard to be liked by somebody, anybody. I wanted people at school to like me, so I would try to find some sort of identity, but never really being able to find one that fit, one where I didn’t feel like an imposter. I did find some acceptance at my local youth group however. I had gone to church almost every Sunday of my life with my family, and I knew a good amount about being spiritual so I found myself fitting in quite well there.
At home, I tried to be the exceptional one. I have three brothers who all are super cool, but something I am exceptional at is finding faults in other people. My brothers were easy targets with how much time I spent around them. So in my mind, all I had to do was be better than them and my parents would like me more, which was, as I thought, pretty straightforward; serve in the tech ministry at church, get good grades at school, and don’t get caught when I broke the law. I even remember having a conversation with my older brother when I said, “I must be the favorite child, think about it.”
With God, I took the same approach. Read my Bible, volunteer, don’t drink, don’t swear. He should like me because I’m pretty good. Heck, I was pretty sure that I wanted to go to church more than my parents sometimes. I would say to God, “forget about those bad things over there, look at what I do to serve you.” I grew up learning that if I believed in God and Jesus then I would go to heaven. But that left me unconfident because I didn’t feel any different, plus that didn’t make me feel all that special. So I stuck with trying to be the super spiritual guy.
Then one afternoon in the summer before my senior year of high school, one of my best friends had come over to hang out and he wanted to watch a sermon that had changed his life a lot by a pastor named Paul Washer. From that DVD, I learned for the first time that I was like everyone else. You see, I share a similarity with all the hero’s I saw on TV, I’m messed up. I, like Tony Stark, have a huge ego and make plenty of dumb choices that hurt others and, more importantly, God, and no matter how much I try, no matter how many hours or dollars I give to the church, I still sin and, left to myself, that puts me in the same spot as the guy next to me, and my classmate who swears and laughs at me, separated from God. Under all those “awesome” things I was doing, what I was really trying to do was earn my salvation through works, which led to me saying Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. Also from the pastor, I learned that words aren’t the solution. That is, going around and talking about God isn’t getting me out of that separation from Him. Pastor Paul gave the analogy that if he came in late and said it was because he was hit by a logging truck, you would never believe him. The same goes for my life. If I tell you that I believe in Jesus and that He changed my life, but you don’t see it, why should you believe me? It requires evidence, new life, or as the Bible calls it, being born again.
So I looked into my life, and didn’t see any life change. I loved myself. I rocked, or at least most of me did, and the people around me hadn’t realized it yet. Plus, I enjoyed doing wrong; it felt good stealing and cheating. I said I followed Jesus, but my life said something else. That day, I prayed a simple prayer to God that He would change my life if he wanted to, and He did. I look back, and I can see how my life changed from trying to do the good and not the bad, to wanting to glorify God by what I did and hating my sin and how it offends God. And my life is still changing. Over the last few years, God has been working hard to form my life to look like what He designed for me. An example is that I have started to get better at seeing those around me the same as me, in need of a Savior. But as usual, I’m stubborn and slow to let him change me. And if you ask anyone who knows me very well, I still have a ways to go, especially in the pride department.
But that identity I was looking for, I found that as well. You see, I am exceptional, I do have it all together, well, in God’s eyes that is. The identity I have now doesn’t need to be worked for, it’s given to me. I am special enough that the God of the universe came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a criminal’s death, so that I could return to Him. So now, despite all the junk in my life, he looks on me and see’s me as I had tried for so long to be, perfect. That is the ultimate identity.
So where are you finding your identity? Are you looking to the good things that you do to cover up the bad? Have they experienced true life change? I challenge you to talk to God about it.