‘Carrot’ was my nickname at school. Everyone called me it, even my teachers. Why? I was born with the affliction of ginger hair. I say ‘affliction’, but it wasn’t really, it was who I was. I was your ginger mate. I was the one you sloppily compared to Ed Sheeran, or more favourably Prince Harry (or just Harry as he’s to be known).
My hair colour has been central to my identity until a week ago. I have been caught by another affliction, the dreaded receding hairline. 5 years of an ever-growing forehead and I decided enough was enough and that I had to take action. With some friends on a weekend away my wife said, ‘you should just shave it off.’ This was all the permission I needed. It was time for courage and clippers. I am now bald. I am your bald friend. I’m now looking forward to hopefully being compared to Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, or Bruce Willis. A man can dream can’t he?!?
Identity is powerful isn’t it? We all want to know who we are what our purpose is. I think I was surprised at how big-a-deal shaving my head was. My identity had changed and that was hard to accept.
I think a fairly strong case could be made that one of the greatest social issues facing us today is that of identity. Everyone has to be boxed and lazily categorised. What you eat categorises you and gives you an identity: vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian… etc. Your sexuality and gender are categorised, fitting you into a tightly sealed box you’d struggle to escape from. Your job gives you an identity. Your hobbies and skills give you an identity. Your political affiliations give you an identity. Your views on Brexit… ARRGH!
All of this is only made more complex when you’re a Christian. Your denomination gives you an identity. Your theological framework gives you an identity. Your views on certain debates gives you an identity. Join me in saying, ‘ARRGH!’
On and on it goes. We end up confused and frustrated, with an ever-diminishing self-worth. This is why I passionately believe the greatest truth we have to offer our world is summed up beautifully in a song we butchered by playing it every Sunday in our churches for two years. It’s called ‘Good Good Father’ by Chris Tomlin. The chorus says:
You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
This truth is articulated so clearly in the writing of John and Paul.
John writes, in no uncertain terms, in 1 John 3:1,
‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’
Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17,
‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.’
Our identity is as a child of God. A God who promises to be our Father. That relationship is at the core of who we are. All other identities and categories fade into insignificance when compared to this one.
…loved not hated.
…cherished not despised
…forgiven not guilty
…noticed not unseen
…valued not worthless
In an ever confused and complex world of categories and self-identification, surely, it’s this simple truth that is the most profound of all.
My hair may be no more and the identity I found with it may have changed, but I am the same. My core identity remains intact. I am a child of God loved by my Father.
What about you? Where do you find your identity?