Only Jesus Can Answer Our Call for Personal Identity

by Rob Tims

What parent cannot resonate with the struggle of connecting with the “perfect” person to help with children in your absence. Granted, there are those moments when a pulse and the absence of a criminal record will suffice, but what we truly desire is person who can truly stand in our place … who can love our kids as we do, and be loved by our kids as we are.

By God’s grace, we seem to have found such a person, and that person is is going to be gone all summer.

I’m not sure who’s sadder: the parents or the kids.

Yet we are excited for her as we consider her next 15 months. Six weeks in Europe, followed by 6 weeks in south Florida with family who will no doubt spoil her after her extended absence, followed by a senior year as a Residential Advisor with a large private room and bathroom. It’s no exaggeration to say they could be the best 15 months of her life (not to mention the doting family with adorable children that can’t seem to live without her).

The conversation with her about this got me thinking about my college days … some of which I’d love to relive, and some I’d love to redo. Mostly, I’d like to relive my senior year and redo my freshman year.

The freshman year struggle was just one time of many in which I (and pretty much everyone else) struggled with identity. Answering the question, “Who am I?” is sometimes a very enjoyable exercise, but more often than not, it just plain sucks. It’s exhausting … frustrating … depressing … so much so that we quickly resort to being whoever anybody at a given time wants us to be.

One day as a freshman I met this beautiful, devoutly Catholic girl, so I started wearing a gold cross outside of my (oversized) t-shirt so she’d notice me. Really?! Was I that hard up for an identity?

Yes … yes I was.

And the fight for identity unfortunately doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree (or a masters, or a doctorate). For the rest of my earthly life, the world will do everything in its power to define me according to its terms, and my flesh will struggle to not give in.

Small wonder that in 1 John 3:1, John would not only remind us of who we are, but emphasize the fact that what we are called is truly who we are.

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children ​— ​and we are! (CSB)

Again, the world is full of tempting alternatives, but those are like paper name tags that can’t stick to our clothes. We are not what we consume. We are not what we achieve. We are not what others think. We are who we have been chosen to be: children of God!

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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