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How To Discover Your True Identity- Part 1

It isn’t what we do that matter the most. It is not even what we are. It is who we are, first and foremost. I may be good at teaching; that is my gifting. I may even be a well trained teacher who is really good at my life career. Well, that is what I am, a really good teacher; but that is not who I am. Does that make sense?

Jones was caught stealing the other day. That’s what he did. To be sure, that is bad. But then, over time, Jones took to stealing ever so often. Too bad, that is what he is now – a thief. But is that all there is to Jones? Having known that Jones is a thief, have we known all there is to him?

It is so easy to define ourselves by what we are or by what we do. ‘He is a medical doctor.’ ‘She is an actress.’ ‘That guy is a fine gentleman.’

We live in a culture that likes to categorize and put a label on people. Have you noticed? ‘She is black.’ ‘He is white’. ‘Oh, Grace? She is Latino.’ Somehow, if we can just define and categorize one another, then it becomes easier to deal with the other group, right? Like, if I know Grace is Latino, then I sort of know what to expect from Grace – because somehow, in my mind, there is an assumption that I know how Latinos or Blacks or Whites or Asians behave. That way, I don’t have to deal with Grace on an individual, unbiased level. You see, I don’t have to get involved, or be genuine and whole and sincere or vulnerable. I can simply deal with other individuals, especially those from a different group or race, from a distance.

Ok, let’s admit it; this type of discussion makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Why? Precisely for the same reason that we don’t want to honestly deal with our inner selves. So, we sort of prefer to deal with the externalities; to live our life from a distance, shallow and shielded.

Well, you know it as much as I do; it is a lame way to live. It is the way of weak-minded, somewhat ignorant and shallow individuals who have not yet understood the basic fact about who we are, as different from what we are or what we do.

But don’t get me wrong. What we do is important. What we are is even more important. But who we are is much more important. This was the lesson that a middle-aged man in ancient Israel was to learn several years back.

His name was Jacob. He cheated his brother out of his rightful inheritance, and ran away. But chicken will always come back to roost in, right? After several years of running, he decided it was time to go back home and face his brother, and deal with the consequences of his behavior.

Now, just a short distance away from home, Jacob became desperate. What if his brother was still angry with him? Was he endangering his life and those of his two wives and many children? Was he being reckless? If anything, at this point, Jacob really needed God’s help. This time, he could not afford to be distant or shallow with God. Men, he was either going to be honest, real honest with himself and God, or he was going to be in real trouble. With this attitude, Jacob went into the woods to pray; somewhere private, where he could be real honest without being ashamed, where he could cry if necessary and not be embarrassed, where he could let it all out and not wonder who took note. It was written that he prayed all night. This guy must have had quite a lot on his mind. Ever been there where you have to stay up all night because of a major need?

You say, ‘Yeah, but what has this got to do with understanding who I truly am?’ I will tell you in a moment. But notice, in response to his all night prayer, God simply asked Jacob a question (the ‘Man’ in the text refers to God who appeared to him in the form of an angel):

[The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]! And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed. Genesis 32: 27- 28, Amplified.

“What is your name?” That is the question we must honestly answer, just like Jacob, before God may help us. Name represents identity, definition, and categorization. What ways have we been defining ourselves and other people? By what you do, by what you are ( such as tall, black, white, asian, handsome, ugly etc), or by who God made you to be?

Jacob replied, ‘My name is Jacob - a cheat, a schemer, a swindler; that’s what I am’. You see, Jacob had to be honest this time. In his deepest moment of reflection, the person that Jacob could see in him was ‘a cheat’. Yes, what we are and what we do are very important. They becloud our true identity and obscure our purpose, if they are the wrong things.

But thank God, now at last, Jacob could be honest enough to face himself, courageous enough to admit his sin, humble enough to admit it to another, repentant enough to look up to God with pleading eyes.

To discover the real reason we are here on earth (purpose) and take our place (assignment), we need to take a clue from Jacob, and be real honest with God and with ourselves; courageous enough to admit our sins and change from our ways of error.

But in the next post, I am going to share with you what is the most interesting discovery Jacob made. It wasn’t just the blessedness of being real and authentic (as if that was not enough in itself); it was the discovery of his true identity. Discovery of purpose begins with a clear understanding of our true identity.

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