Monday, 2 January 2017

Identity and how Shallow it really is.

Identity problems are a red herring.

Let's hypothesise that a particular person is trying to work out their true identity - such a person in the more distant past might have said, am I supposed to be a nun or a monk, or get married and live a conventional life?

Or in the sixties - should I join the commune? Should I become a hippie? Or should I join a company like Dad or get married like Mum and live a conventional life?

In the eighties and nineties, should I opt out of the big career goals or go for the whole money-making conventional package? I need to 'find myself' was what people said.

Today for some young people the question becomes, am I male or female? A different fixation from the past. But an identity problem nonetheless that shares some characteristics with the others. (Doctors now say it comes out of childhood trauma - but perhaps the others do too, to some degree, who knows?)

All of these identity problems result in a person choosing one or the other - the new identity or the old - conformity to parents' way of life or leaving home and apparently becoming someone new.

In fact, in the past it has often been best for someone to choose the one that results in the journey away from the parents, only to discover, ultimately, that they are still the same person, whether at home with Mum and Dad, or in the commune / opting out of the career / being a nun or monk / peeling off the layers of the onion.

The fact is, having taken that step away they know that despite having left the nest, they are really the same person they were anyway, and they become more charitable towards others and the world, from the realisation that we can't really change ourselves simply by changing our circumstances. It was all an illusion anyway - you peel off the layers of the onion and what if eventually you find there's nothing at the centre?

The one who never leaves the nest never knows, whether they would have been the same person or not.

I think that's part of the crisis of the prodigal son's elder brother. He never leaves home. He never really becomes his own person. The younger son is able to love because he makes that break, he goes off to seek his fortune.

Of course it's not so simple when the 'leaving home' could result in a bodily change so drastic it's irreversible.

But the thing is - what all these crises often obscure is a deeper crisis about love and about sin and about conformity and about God. Sometimes the real question is about this: do I follow my parents' pathway through life? Or do I follow God's pathway? (Such a question when suppressed can manifest as the different more trivial question when not faced consciously, i.e. do I become a monk? Do I change gender?)

The really crippling thing that parents can do to their children is to enforce their prejudices and blind spots about people on them. A person can believe they are 'leaving home' but quite often they take their parents' lack of love towards particular people or groups of people with them. 

Since lack of love is essentially what abiding sin is (he who is forgiven much, loves much, Jesus said - note Jesus' forgiveness is the solution here) the young person who takes their parents' prejudices and hatreds and judgement and depersonalisation of others with them never really leaves home at all. Changing life circumstances, even changing genders, will not change the fact that they are still conforming to the old patterns of behaviour.

The awareness of this sin, lack of love towards others, pushed into the subconscious, becomes a motivation for trying to change one's skin (life circumstances, surroundings, appearance, social standing, even gender) - in essence like Edmund (who himself never leaves his parents' prejudices and sins behind and consequently becomes a dragon in Narnia) - but at the end of the day, only by turning to God and letting Him change us can we become a new person.

Only Aslan (Jesus) can rip off the old skin and make someone new.

Even when we have very good parents who are loving towards others, it is really necessary to take on Christ for oneself. It's not enough just to come from a Christian background - everyone has to become a new creation in Christ and the only way to do that is by turning to God.  (Added after)

Changes in location, appearance, social role, none of these will make someone into a new person. Even something as drastic as gender surgery will not make someone into a new person. Only the person whom God changes on the inside becomes a new person. Ask Him for this change today if you haven't experienced it! 

Of course, this really, truly drastic inner change only becomes possible when a person is so desperate that they are at heart willing to hear and follow the call of God wherever it leads- to be willing to leave home, parents, family, village, lands, brothers and sisters, for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. To be willing to entrust one's life fully into God's hands. To be willing to take up one's cross and follow Jesus. (In Edmund's case, he must be willing to submit himself to Aslan)

Ultimately, to be willing to submit oneself completely to Jesus, and to trust Him completely.

To conform to social convention in that situation rather than follow God and seek God's transformation is to cripple oneself, to become the elder brother in the prodigal son story, someone who obeys out of duty, but someone who never really learns what it means to love others.

Here is the story of someone who traded the sorrows of trying to become someone/something different, in the most drastic sense, for joy, by giving his life to Jesus.

(note - 2 jan 2017 a few changes on this one.  )

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