I hope you all had an excellent weekend! For my Canadian friends and family, you should either just be recovering from the feasts of the weekend, or succumbing to the final food coma before the long weekend is over. Either way, I’m glad you’re here.
I’ve talked before about the importance of identity and the role it plays in our journey toward God. Today,I want to talk about building an identity marker for yourself. This is especially important for artists, who often can get lost in their craft, sacrificing everything for the betterment of their work. Even those who are not in the arts can feel the opposing pull that can come from our duties as parents, workers, and members of faith. If we are able to build a hierarchy of identity, perhaps we can keep our bearings through this crazy, hectic, and stressful world.
To accomplish this, we need to follow 5 steps. They won’t always be easy or simple, and may take a lot of time for reflection, but I think it will be worth it in the end. For this article, I will use myself as an example, in case anyone gets lost.
Step 1: Find What You Worship
This is your centre. The central driving force behind your entire being. It isn’t what you like, or are passionate about, or even love. This is your all. Without this, you would cease to be who you are. You might be a comparable copy, but not the real you. You think about this when you get up, and before you go to sleep.
For me, I worship Jesus Christ. My entire life is based around my relationship with the Son of God. He affects how and where I work, how I treat my wife, what movies I watch, what games I play, and what books I read. He is the reason I write this blog and go to school and make art. I could lose everything else in my life, but as long as I had my faith in God, I would still be me. I will never lose that.
Step 2. Find Your Greatest Relationship
We were created for community. Even introverts that I know (myself included) admit that being around people is good. We need friends, family, and coworkers to lift us up when we are hurting and to kick us in the pants when we’re getting a little too big for our britches. Even deeper, we need someone who knows us in light of what we worship, and hopefully worships the same thing. This person is your companion through life, no matter where you will be. You trust this person with everything you have, from your life to the five bucks he or she has borrowed. In this life, they are your partner.
It may not come as a surprise, but in my life, this is my wife. She is my best friend, my confident, my partner and companion. We do everything together, and she knows everything about me. My joys and my fears. My greatest accomplishments and most shameful regrets. She is loyal and loving and with me until the end. I am called to be her husband and love her until our dying days.
Step 3. Find Your Legacy
What will you leave behind when you are gone? What will remain of your time on earth after you have stopped living on it? For some, this may be dictated by your beliefs, chosen by your passions, or shaped by your career. We all are aware that our lives will some day come to an end, and figuring out how you will leave this planet is an important question that we must all wrestle with.
With the imminent birth of my son, I know that he (and any other children God blesses us with) will be my legacy. I must take my calling as father very seriously if I want my life to be of lasting impact. They will be free to make their own decisions in life, I have no desire to create clones of myself, but I want to leave a legacy of God-loving, passionate, and kind people. I will pour my efforts into raising a responsible, fun-loving, and caring generation.
Step 4. Find Your Calling
We are all gifted in some way. Some are gifted in far more ways than others, but we all have something that we are naturally good at. What we do with these gifts is of vital importance and will probably reflect your answer to step 1. If you are gifted at making money and worship security, you may end up running a large corporation and hoarding your wealth. If you are excellent at photography and worship yourself, I bet you take some stunning self portraits. The important thing at this step is to find what you are good at and figuring out how you will use those gifts in light of what you worship.
I am an artist. I act, dance, sing, write, and direct. I take photographs and choreograph dances. I paint and colour. I knew all of these even before I decided what I would worship. Yet, as I have grown in my faith, I have understood that these talents and skills are from God and should be used for God. Now, I aim to be one of God’s artists in the world, showing His beauty, His Grace, and His story to a society that desperately needs it. It is my calling.
Step 5. Find Your Passion
Steps 4 and 5 may seem similar, but there are differences. In addition to talents, we all have causes that we uphold. Social justice for the poor. Ethical treatment of animals. Liberation for enslaved peoples. Our hearts break for certain causes more than others. We are not blind to the suffering of other groups, or the need for change, but our passion lies in helping this particular cause. This is not a bad thing, for no single mortal person can take on every injustice in the world. That is why we each have our own passions. Finding ours can help give specific direction to our callings.
My heart lies in helping guide the spiritually hungry in my community. This is why I want to be a pastor, especially a pastor for artists. I want to show them hope and help and freedom from the troubles that plague us here in the West. I know that there are starving children around the world, and my wife and I help where we can, but my focus is on the spiritually poor here in my city.
When you have meditated, wrestled with, and found answers to these questions, you should be able to build a hierarchy of identity. For me, it looks like this:
If I am ever in a situation where my duties to two or more of these identity markers are in conflict, I just look to the list. The one closest to the top wins out. Some may disagree with the placement that I have, and I would love to talk about it. My list is based on my study of biblical principles, so you may have a different order, even with the same five categories. That’s alright. If it works for you, then you’ve accomplished this task.
What did you come up with? What five words would you give to describe your identity to someone who has never met you? I’d be very interested to see what other people came up with!