Feb. 4, 2016 4th Week in Ordinary Time C
“Who defines who you are?” This is such a critical question, but so few of us have really stopped to answer it. Who has the right to define who you are? What you’re worth? What your purpose is? Whether you succeed or fail? How you define your identity is ultra-important. What you believe about yourself is what shapes all your decisions and actions.
Most of us end up believing things about our identity that are not grounded in God’s reality—of who God created us to be, what God created us to do. We believe lies about our identity that the evils of this world inflict on us. We constantly worry about the opinions or approval of others. We experience intense anxiety when we’re not succeeding or are not recognized for our accomplishments. We feel sick inside when the stock market drops or we don’t get promoted. We find ourselves lowering our standards to new levels then justifying it in order to prove our worth or get someone to love us. We feel the need to control our spouse or our kids because our identity has somehow gotten wrapped up in what others think or do.
When we base our worth or identity on what we do or what was done to us, we will struggle with fear of failure, feel the need to prove ourselves, or manipulate others who get in the way of our success. We will become self-consumed. That’s because God never created us to get our identity from what we do or what others did to us, but from who we are to God.
Van Lommel notes that many Near Death Experience (NDE) survivors he’s interviewed “talk of attaching greater value and meaning to life and less importance to material things such as an expensive car, a big house, and a job with status or power.” Many people try to perform, accomplish, or gain notoriety to make a name for themselves. What we will see in Heaven is that life is not about all that.
When Dr. George Ritchie had his life review in his NDE, this matter became evident:
Every detail of twenty years of living was there to be looked at. The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill. And with this all-inclusive view came a question. It was implicit in every scene and, like the scenes themselves, seemed to proceed from the living Light beside me.
What did you do with your life? It was obviously not a question in the sense that He was seeking information, for what I had done with my life was in plain view. . . . Hadn’t I ever gone beyond my own immediate interests, done anything other people would recognize as valuable? At last I located it, the proudest moment of my life: “I became an Eagle Scout!”
Again, words seemed to emanate from the Presence beside me: That glorified you. . . . I saw myself walking forward at a church service at age eleven, asking Jesus to be Lord of my life. But I saw how quickly that first excitement turned into a dull routine of church-on-Sunday. . . .
I started to point out my premed courses, how I was going to be a doctor and help people. But visible alongside the classroom scenes was that Cadillac car and that private airplane—thoughts as observable as actions in that all-pervading Light.
And all at once rage at the question itself built up in me. It was not fair! Of course I had not done anything with my life! I had not had time. How could you judge a person who had not started? The answering thought, however, held no trace of judgment. Death, the word was infinitely loving, can come at any age.
God never intended you to base your identity on accomplishments or performing. No one knows what you were created to do and be except your Creator. Look what God says about your true identity: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43: 6–7, italics mine). God made you for himself—not to prove your glory, but to be his glory. His pride and joy. His beloved son or daughter. What he wants you to do is learn to be secure in his love, in who he made you to be, and from that place of security, you can do what he created you to do. And first and foremost, this is to love those you uniquely can love.
Paul explained, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 12–13). Heaven will be that place where you realize how uniquely loved you are. He doesn’t want you to wait until Heaven to realize this.
-John Burke, Imagine Heaven