Sunday, May 16, 2010

Identity Crisis

As I watch the news lately, I find myself thinking, what is happening to us as a society?  Where are we going (or not going)?  Though I generally discount the media's tendency to sensationalize sex, violence, and whatever else brings in ratings, I can't help but thinking, is there something more beneath the surface?

The short answer is, yes, there is.

We, as a society, are in the midst of an identity crisis.  Despite what the media would have us believe, it is nothing new; the identity crisis has manifested itself more than I care to count in various places and times since the beginning of human history.  However, it is only recently that global interconnectedness has allowed us to see all of the recent instances of the crisis occuring together, and in near real time.  The question is a question of the human condition in general, but churns at the same time in the hearts and minds of each of us individually as we grasp for meaning in life, and pain and suffering in particular.

The question is, what does it mean to be a human being?

This question has been asked since the day our ancestors turned their backs on God and were forced from the Garden.  Before the fall, they walked with God as friends, and knew only to turn to the source of all life--their Creator--for the answer to that question.  However, by turning their backs on Him and separating themselves from Him, as we do every time we sin as individuals and as a society, they distanced themselves so that the only place they were left to turn was to look within themselves and their own brokenness and sinfulness: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (Gen 3:7).

However, God, having known what happened, immediately condemned the deceiver and promised a remedy to be able to return to that face-to-face relationship that he destined us for. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen 3:15).  He promised us an answer to the crisis that our ancestors found themselves in, and that we continue to struggle with in the present day.  That answer would be his very own Word, and not only spoken as it was in the creation, but come among as as a flesh-and-blood human being.  As he always does, he made good on his promise, and in the most sublime and humble way imaginable: he became one of us to show us who we are and why we are created.  Christ came not only to tell us, but also to show us, that we are beloved sons and daughters of the Father.  He demonstrated by his life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension, how we are to live as beloved children and what unimaginable good the Father has in store if we do.

So what roll does obedience play in all of this?  To put it simply, it is the only way to reclaim and return to that identity.  Unfortunately, it is also our biggest stumbling block.  Because of that original sin, as discussed in the previous post, we have a sort of default toward disobedience.  Because of the choice of our original parents, and carried down in the sins of every parent since, we are conceived in its twistedness.  So, we must make a choice, first in baptism (as our parents and Godparents chose for us) but also in the gift of each day and each moment, whether to obey or disobey.

When we humble ourselves to obey, we don't have to continue to grovel and grasp for our sense of identity.  We are freed to recognize that it has already been given to us, and in the greatest way imaginable.  Christ himself became our identity, and as St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4-5, allows us now to live in a relationship of faith and trust in the Father through him, in the sure knowledge that if we do we will see him face to face:

So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For in this [earthly] tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:2-3,5, 21
That is our identity.  There is our worth, not in being productive or wealthy or influential or any of the other dozens of false identities that this world would have us believe that we have to earn, but that in short time will pass away like the wind.  Our identity is the eternal and unfading righteousness of God, which can only be found by humbling and denying ourselves, and looking instead to the Other.

Turning away from that in disobedience can only lead us in one direction: back down into the dregs of groping for who we are, and being unable to raise ourselves from where we began and where the world continues to struggle.  If we reject Christ, we will continue to struggle with questions of life and death, the value of human life, and the choice to love and serve God in freedom or to become enslaved to the demands of society and who it tells us we ought to be, instead of resting secure in the identity that Christ himself has already given to us.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an interesting and profound link between identity and obedience! Thank you for sharing this.