Have you noticed the hidden and secret identity themes in many children’s stories? For instance, in Cinderella, the poverty-stricken and unloved character is the one with true nobility. Or seen a movie in which the hero or heroine suffers amnesia-like experiences and stumbles through their new life in the proverbial dark? They often forget key aspects of who they are, and as a result confusion and sometimes disaster results. I propose to you that in this case, real life is often on par with fiction. How often have you forgotten who you are in Christ and what have been the effects?
Symptomatology of Forgotten Identity
So what might be some signs in the military context, that we’ve forgotten our true identity? Perhaps you are that rare woman amongst a majority of males in your unit. In your desire to be accepted and esteemed by your male peers, you are consumed with your performance, or even compromise what you know to be right. Or maybe you are that man headed out on yet another deployment with your squadron. Not only do you train together and fight together, you also succumb to sinning together in the effort to fit in. Perhaps anxiety is your constant companion as you seek to effectively lead in command because the revolving thought, “What will they think of me…?” is constantly on your mind. Or, perhaps you see that your primary, God-given relationships are breaking down and know that it is time for a transition out of the military. However, you sign up for a few more years of service because you secretly fear a life without the salutes, the commendations and the uniform which have become your functional identity. In any case, you’ve forgotten who you really are in Christ, elevated your desire for acceptance to an idolatrous demand, and yielded to temptation.
Who Are You in Christ?
There are so many places we could go in Scripture, even beginning with Genesis 1! You are an image-bearer of the most High God (Gen 1:26-27). Your mission and purpose on this earth are all intimately tied to this, but let’s camp out in Ephesians 1. As a believer, you are a saint (Eph 1:1, 18). This means you are set apart by God for all that is holy and sacred, and are different from the common, profane, world. You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:3). You were chosen by God to be his very own before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). You are God’s loved and adopted child (Eph 1:5). You are redeemed by his blood (Eph 1:7). You are forgiven of all of your trespasses (Eph 1:7). You are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). You are an heir to the Kingdom (Eph 1:14). You are God’s own possession (Eph 1:14). You are part of the church, his body (Eph 1:22-23).
How can your heart not sing in response to this? I’m very near tears typing up these simple but profound truths. You, my brothers and sisters are meant to mirror God’s image accurately to those you are serving with in the military. He’s given you all that you need to triumph spiritually for his glory. You don’t have to keep trying to measure up to others standards, because God chose you, loves you, and paid a high price to adopt you into his own family. You already belong and you’ve got nothing to prove! He’s bought your life with the precious blood of his Son, and forgiven all your sins in the past, present and future. You are the heir of an inheritance that will never rust or fade and will last long after you relinquish your duty title or take off your uniform. You are the Creator of the Universe’s possession and a member of his own body. Delight in who God says you are and joyfully reclaim your identity!
Ways to Reflect, Change and Grow in Light of These Truths
Repent of any ways in which you have forgotten who you are in Christ. Specifically confess the ways you gave into the idolatry of acceptance and fear of man.
Meditate on the truths of Ephesians 1. Then read through Ephesians 2 and write down everything you see about a believer’s identity because of our union with Christ. How might delighting in these truths about your identity be a ready tool in your fight against the idolatry of acceptance or fear of man?
Read about the military man and King, Saul in 1 Samuel 15. What were the circumstances around his demise even in the midst of a victorious campaign? What role did his fear of man or idolatrous desire for acceptance from his troops, play in his life? What were the results? What warning should you take from this in your own life?
Memorize John 12:43 and Proverbs 29:25. Hiding these words in your heart will help you remember who you should rightly fear and whose praise to ultimately seek.
Consider reading, “When People Are Big and God is Small” by Edward Welch. He faithfully discusses how and why we fear others. He then equips you to grow in your fear of the Lord, delight in who God says you are, and then practice biblical love towards other people.