I recently asked a room full of teenagers:
“How many of you would say that your identify is important to you?”
Most of them raised their hands.
According to recent studies, Gen Z is a generation obsessed with their identity and who they are, more than any other generation before them. The New York Times recently interviewed some Gen Z’ers and here are somethings that kids their age are saying:
“Members of my generation have untraditional views about identity.”
“We have the tools and language to understand identity in ways our parents never really thought about.”
“We are far more comfortable with shifting views of identity than older generations have been.”
“Identity is something that can change, like politics.”
And here’s the thing, there’s nothing wrong with trying to discover and figure out who you are.
Even secular psychologists who study identity say that “we are all part of a universe and we ought to contribute something positive to it by discovering our identities and what they can contribute that is positive to help others”. (Psychology Today)
However, these same psychologists say that “too much obsession with one’s identity is purely selfishness and can also be harmful as it doesn’t contribute anything to the universe, or it contributes negativity”.
So we recognize that self-discovery, is, to a certain extent, a natural part of life- discovering your likes and dislikes, beliefs and passions.
The problem lies in the obsession with identity. And this doesn’t only apply to Gen Z. This applies to any of us who are obsessively seeking to find our self-worth in our identity.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the story of Moses, he was chosen, by God, to lead the Israelites, the Jews, God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh.
God approaches Moses – who, by the way was unqualified by human standards. Some people believe that Moses had a speech impediment, was socially awkward, not your typical leader. And he knew it too.
In Exodus Chapter 3:10-14 God says to Moses:
“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Now, after this, Moses goes and approaches Pharaoh and asks him to let God’s people go. Pharaoh says NO.
God then brings 10 plagues down onto the people of Egypt. He was turning rivers into blood, afflicting people with boils, sending hail and fire down on the land, infestations of locusts, frogs, gnats, and flies, bringing total darkness upon the land, sending disease to all of the Egyptian livestock and bringing death upon all of the first born.
Finally, after his first-born child dies, Pharoah lets the Israelites go.
Then, the newly freed Israelites reach the Red Sea. Suddenly, they look up on the horizon and they see PHAROAH AND HIS ENTIRE EGYPTIAN ARMY! PHARAOH JUST DECIDED TO CHANGE HIS MIND ONE LAST TIME AND PURSUE THE ISRAELITES!
The Israelites see this and say “Moses, here’s the Red Sea, here’s the Egyptians, we have nowhere to go! You freed us from slavery just so we can die here now!”
And this is how Moses responds.
Exodus Chapter 14:13-18 says:
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.
18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
So, what happens next? God asks Moses to raise his staff, and he PARTS THE RED SEA. The Israelites just glide on through and then when the Egyptians follow them, BOOM, God closes the ocean in on them!
So, what happened to Chapter 3 Moses to get him to become Chapter 14 Moses? Insecure, scared, unqualified Moses became strong, confident, capable, miracle working Moses.
What happened is that Moses was:
WILLING to let God take charge, even though he didn’t believe in himself
OBEDIENT to God even though what God was asking him to do was scary
Moses went into Egypt literally saying “WHO AM I?”and he left Egypt saying “I am God’s child! He chose me to lead his people out of slavery!”
God used Moses to do great things. But Moses didn’t start doing great things knowing his identity immediately. He started out literally saying “WHO AM I?”
And through his journey, through his willingness and obedience to follow God, slowly, bit by bit, God revealed to him who HE was and who Moses was. He showed him the gifts and talents he placed inside of him.
ONLY WHEN I AM FOLLOWING GOD AND LEARNING WHO HE IS WILL I TRULY DISCOVER MY TRUE IDENTITY.
Why? Because my identity lies in God. I am God’s child.
Our true and original identity doesn’t lie in our gender, our skillset, our talents, our religion, the country we live in, the food we do or don’t eat, our sexual preference, our race, our income, our personality, our looks, our grades…..our true identity lies in God.
Moses asked God and He essentially responded: Moses, you’re asking the wrong question!
The question here is not WHO AM I? The question is WHO IS GOD?
If we don’t know that, we will NEVER FULLY KNOW WHO WE ARE.
God had to show Moses who he was through all of those trials, and finally Moses could grasp what his own identity was and then he was able to do something AMAZING.
Obsessing over ourselves and who we are will lead to dissatisfaction, dissalusionment, disappointment and a false sense of self.
I keep hearing people say: “I want to live my more authentic self.”
What does that even mean?
When most people say it, all it means is “living how I feel/want/what makes me happy”.
But the word “authentic” by definition means “genuine, based on accurate or reliable facts, made or done in the traditional way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.”
True authenticity in our identity and in our lives means we are living in a way that resembles the original. But the original what? Well, God is the original. The literal OG.
We are to faithfully resemble him, as the original because we are made in his image.
So, this is something I’ve been telling even myself lately: stop obsessing over WHO AM I, and focus on WHO IS GOD.
You might ask: why do we need to find our identity in God? Why is this important?
And my answer is simply this:
Nobody really knows us. In fact, there is only one person who knows us better than we even know ourselves. And that is the ONE WHO CREATED US.