Identity Crisis

While I’m certain Ed could speak much more to this particular assertion, it is nearly universally held that one of the major tasks of adolescence is the formation of an identity. Think back to your time in middle school or high school. I’m willing to bet that a healthy chunk of your time was spent trying to figure out exactly who you were. Sometimes this takes the shape of finding yourself among like minded individuals. If I you are on a soccer team, then you are a soccer player. Sometimes it works negatively too, in that you figure out who you are by figuring out who you aren’t. I am not someone who plays Dungeons and Dragons, so I’ve got that going for me. Little bit by little bit, through our teens and early 20s we develop this sort of identity. We eventually come to discover exactly who we are.

Now, Ed is spending this blog series focusing on the clinical/developmental side of the ball, so I’m already in over my depth. This is of course a theological discussion you and I are having! But I think the intersection here is absolutely critical, and we as a culture are doing an interesting thing with identity in terms of our faith. The question is ultimately this: is your faith a defining feature of your identity, or is it a side dish among the other options?

For instance: how do you view church attendance? Sadly for some, going to church is what you do when you want to look good or have a beefed up college resume. You make time for it when you can, when soccer and baseball and cheerleading and marching band don’t get in the way. It’s there, it’s a part of who you are, but it isn’t really a defining characteristic.

But how would things change if you saw yourself principally for who you really are, a child of God for whom and through whom God decides to act? How would your world be different if you understood yourself to be a redeemed one looking to participate in the action of God in the world? What if you started there, and worked your way out?

So many other youth workers want to turn this into a guilt trip. “You should come to church more than you go to sports!” That’s not exactly right, and has the added negative of sounding awful. My question here isn’t how can you spend more time with us and less time on the soccer field. My question is how does your identity in Christ shape your work on the soccer field? How does your understanding of the God who acts change who you are in school? How does your understanding of your participation in God’s kingdom change how you spend your free time? I think if we start with God as the center of our identity, so much of what we do will make way more sense.

Perhaps one of my most important jobs here at Westminster is to grab young people, stare them in the eye, and remind them of who they really are: a beloved child of God.

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