It seems like many people these days are talking about “identity,” which can mean different things to different people. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” But, just who is yourself? Is it that physical reflection in your mirror or even what you think about yourself? Or could it be that your identity is spiritual?
Interestingly, I read a 2015 New York Times Magazine article, entitled The Year We Obsessed Over Identity. The article cited the decade of technology when anyone can create any persona, or identity, and be protected in cyberspace. Reality TV shows abound where experts can’t wait to make over homes, bodies, and lives. And Wesley Morris wrote this long piece pointing out the emotional strains some people experience from searching for their true identity in all these many ways.
From time to time, we have probably all asked the question, “Who am I?” For a long time, this was certainly the case with my two daughters, who are adopted. They both knew who their biological mothers were, but had never known their biological fathers. Additionally, one daughter was Hispanic (and 30 years ago there weren’t as many diverse families as there are today) so she always felt “different” as a black-eyed, dark-skinned daughter of blonde “parents.”
Through the years, that “unknown” aspect of who my daughters were sometimes led to anxiety, fear, coping issues, and even physical problems like Wesley Morris described in his article, because they didn’t have all the answers about who they identified with or as.
Thankfully, their religious upbringing taught them to always look to God for answers, so each time they faced a kind of “identity crisis,” instead of searching for their “human” identity, they searched the Scriptures.
In Sunday School, my girls were taught from the Bible that man is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis), that God is Love and that we are all called the children of God (I John). They also learned of the humble birth of Jesus, who could have identified himself as simply the son of a carpenter. Instead, Jesus lived his life demonstrating his identity as God’s Son by reflecting God’s love and the spiritual qualities that came from his heavenly Father’s divine nature.
And, in the Christian Science textbook (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy) my daughters were inspired to learn of identity as spiritual in passages such as: “Identity is the reflection of Spirit,” and “Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God.”
Once, upon learning that her birth father had passed away a few years before, my younger daughter was saddened and quite emotional about never having met him. She had hoped to have questions answered about why he was never involved in her life. For example, did he love her?
As I tried to console her, I did tell her of some physical characteristics she shared with him. Then, I asked her to describe the spiritual characteristics she reflected from her heavenly Father. I was happy to hear her say “goodness, love, and comfort.” She then went on to say, “God is really my father and mother. And, everyone is God’s child.”
In the midst of feeling abandoned and perhaps unloved, what a wonderful revelation to think of being loved by the one “Parent” -- Father-Mother God -- and reflecting that love.
My older daughter has also had “ah-ha” moments about her identity. She, too, was able to leave sad feelings behind by acknowledging that she had a spiritual identity as a child of God. Especially helpful to her was the idea that her spiritual identity also made her a unique individual. This removed her worries about looking physically different from the rest of our family.
When looking in the mirror, instead of trying to find a likeness to a parent or other family member, my daughters finally realized that they reflected all the good and love that God is. That was enough to eliminate their need to attach themselves to a material history. And, while it seemed they had been separated from their identity at birth, they eventually knew their true spiritual identity belonged to them and they could never be separated from qualities such as love, forgiveness, and gratitude, to name a few.
My daughters gradually came to see that their identities were never defined by their human birth, ethnicity, or even gender. Like them, if you are struggling with identity and discovering who you really are, look no further than your spiritual mirror and see who God sees – a perfect likeness of Him (or Her), with your own unique combination of spiritual qualities.
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Debra Chew writes about the connection between thought, spirituality and wellness from a Christian Science perspective. She has been published in USA Today, chattanoogan.com, Knoxville News Sentinel, Memphis Commercial Appeal, UK Health Triangle Magazine, and the Jackson Sun & JS Health Magazine.