Identity

4671-tree-water It's been 2 years since I stepped down as worship leader of our last church and I have to say it's been the absolute best thing God has done in our lives.  God has revealed the idols in my heart and needless to say is chipping them away.  It is indeed a slow and painful process because I put a lot of years of hard work in to building them.  John Calvin gets credit for one of the best observations ever made in post canon theology. He said, "The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols."

The idols I have created are far too many to name, but I will let you in on one of them.  One of my biggest idols has been identity seeking. Before I was in ministry, I developed a pattern of moving from job to job.  I would be content for 2 or 3 years until I realized it wasn't fulfilling enough.  Instead of sticking it out and enduring the trials I was facing which usually centered around my relationships with superiors, I opted for lateral movement hoping something would click inside and I would settle down.  After being laid off from a company after 8 years of employ, I bounced around some more all the while thinking that my musical gifts had to be the ticket to escaping this volatile existence.  I thought that once I became a vocational worship leader that my heart would be filled, that my identity would be fulfilled. Many good folks along the way were enablers to maintaining the sheen of this idol.  Anytime someone complimented something I did or a song I performed, my idol was being polished. It wasn't their intent, but I was more than willing to let them.  I wish I could say my motivation behind serving in the church has always been to lead people to Christ, but mostly it has been done to lead people to myself. 

As a worship leader, I soon realized the frustration in securing my idenity through my career.  The biggest problem in finding your identity in anything other than Christ is that there is always opposition. There is no clear path to finding yourself in this world or anything in this world apart from Jesus.  You discover the opposition comes from other identity seekers like the people you work with and those you work for. The evolutionary theory almost seems plausible as the larger egos win out in a spiritual survivor of the fittest. 

I struggled mightily behind the scenes trying to reconcile my identity with the self-image I created. Thankfully the fork in the road arrived prior to the breaking point. Through wise counsel, I took the honest path which seemed to lead through the forest of uncertainty, while the disingenious path looked clear and comfortable. Now, here I am 2 years later and not where I expected to be. In fact, I would have fought this path tooth and nail 5 years ago.

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed my job.  I told him that I don't enjoy what I do,  but I have more joy in the midst of what I'm doing if that makes any sense.  I want a life like that tree in Psalms, the one planted by the stream.  Though it's leaves wither, the tree never dies. It flourishes in all seasons. That's my desire, to not only weather the conditions of each seasonal turn, but to flourish in fruit-bearing joy. That is the identiy I long for.

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God Himself (Jonathan Edwards in Contemporary Language)

Jonathan-edwards
 Ok, I'm going to do my best "Eugene Peterson "  and attempt to paraphrase a Jonathan Edwards paragraph from his sermon entitled "God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man's Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of it."  (by the length of the title, you can see why I want to paraphrase the title as well)


"God Himself"

The one who has been rescued by God finds that God Himself is the ultimate good for which he has been rescued. He realizes that God rescued him, in fact, purchased him so that he could truly enjoy God.  God completes man, not the other way around. God Himself is the nourishment for the rescued one's starving soul.  He satisfies the soul that longs to be satisfied yet has failed in it's attempt to fill itself with other things, even God's own good gifts. While the world pursues money and assets, food, better living, nice homes, fashion, and fame, the rescued one treasures God more than anything. God Himself is the bread that nourishes and sustains him. He realizes that God Himself is Eternal Life now and hereafter. God Himself is his home, where he finds security and hospitality.  God Himself is the righteous covering concealing his nakedness. God Himself is his eventual exaltation.

When the rescued one dies and enters heaven, he will be overwhelmed by the presence of God. He will delight first and foremost in seeing the glorious One. The other beauties and blessings of heaven will be just that. Other. When he wakes up in heaven, God Himself will enlighten him and nourish him, because He will be THE light and THE food and drink.  Heaven is indeed a paradise, but only because God is there.  In heaven, the rescued one will no longer settle for inferior entertainment such as television, sports, the internet, cinema, art, reading, and recreation.  God Himself, indeed His very essence, will entertain the rescued one's mind and he will never grow tired or bored! Never! He will be filled with God's love. God Himself will provide the love, and it will be returned right back to Him!  The rescued one will still have the capacity to enjoy the gifts of God, things like mountains, rivers, oceans, galaxies, planets, animals, food, fine wine, angels, other people. But he will not enjoy them as things to be abused and used for his own selfish pleasure as he often does now. Instead he will enjoy God's gifts as the way God intended. Simply, as a material means of seeing God's glory, as well as a means to enjoying God Himself!