How to avoid the identity trap: Focus on what will be

The Rev. Nicole Martin is executive minister at The Park Church
The Rev. Nicole Martin is executive minister at The Park Church

After church this past Sunday, my amazing toddler did something else that completely amazed me. When people asked how she was doing, she replied by stating, “I’m potty trained!”

Occasionally, she even added the important detail of what she did in the toilet that day.

I felt so many emotions that I began to assess what was happening for me. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed about her achievements. In fact, I was incredibly proud and grateful that my little one had reached such an amazing milestone. Instead, my deepest feelings were the excitement of what God had in store for her. If she thinks that going to the potty was a big deal, wait until she sees what more she can do and be!

So often in life, we can limit ourselves by only thinking about our past achievements. We can get stuck in what we did, so much so that we forget that the best is still ahead. When the past is all you have, it’s easy to base your identity on what was instead of focusing on what will be.

Furthermore, our society makes it convenient to think of yourself in terms of what you do rather than who you are. The most commonly asked networking question is: “What do you do for a living?”

Instead of describing who we’ve become or talking about our passions, we can get trapped in a career box that does not speak to who we really are. This is even more challenging when your job has very little to do with what you love.

Fortunately, God offers us another way. He allows us to live based on who we are instead of by what we do. For example, when God created humanity in Genesis, He boldly declared, “it is very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means before we could do one thing, good or bad, God called us good. By simply being made in God’s image, you and I can walk in God’s affirmation.

Then, in the New Testament, Paul says, “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). In other words, forget what you used to do and who you used to be. If you are in Christ, you’ve got greater things coming.

When you get connected to a relationship with Jesus Christ, God completely changes your identity. No longer are you identified by what you do, but by who you are. One wise person said God made us human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. When you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you can be known by who you are, not by what you do.

So, don’t get hung up on your past and current achievements. Don’t get stuck believing that you are what you do. Instead, anchor your soul in Christ and know that what was is nothing compared to what will be.

This is what I will tell my toddler as she grows up. Then, hopefully, she’ll see herself as more than just potty trained, but biblically trained and prepared for the great things that God has in store.

The Rev. Nicole Martin is executive minister at The Park Church.