Regaining Our Identity
One of the themes that I can’t help but notice as we work our way through the Old Testament is that of identity. So much of what we are reading is telling, and retelling, of the story of who the Israelites are. Whether it is the story of Abraham and the covenant, the story of Joseph, or of leaving Egypt, the value of knowing who we are, and where we have come from is incredibly important for the Israelites. During our conversation on Monday, we drew from several commentaries, many of which discussed laws related to sexuality within the nation of Israel, and how it is to be approached. One of my classmates made the observation that this is not so much a matter of law… but a matter of identity.
I am convinced that one of our most important roles, as church leaders, is to help people move from following a list of dos and don’ts to embracing their true identity. But how?
Several years ago James Fowler shared his theory of faith development in his book Stages of Faith. Fowler suggests that there are six stages of faith, for our purposes let’s look at three and four:
- Synthetic-Conventional: This is marked by conformity to authority and the development of a personal identity. Conflicts between behaviors and beliefs are ignored.
- Individuative-Reflective: Individuals begin to take personal responsibility for their beliefs and are able to reflect on them. There is an openness to the complexity of faith, and an increased awareness of conflict between behaviors and beliefs.
I believe that the transition between these two stages of faith development is the key to truly understanding our identity as Christ followers, and embracing who God has called us to be. While this transition is important, it can also be incredibly intimidating. Fowler suggests that the process of moving between stage three and stage four faith involves doubt, questioning, and deep wrestling through the beliefs that are held by the community that we are conforming to. While in some communities this is welcomed and expected, in many communities this is seen as a negative thing and an attempt is made to quash the process because it is seen as dangerous.
As a youth pastor, and later as a church planter, my job was to create an environment where people had the freedom to wrestle, to doubt, to ask hard questions, and to evolve in their understanding of who God is, and who they are in him. The journey is hard, frustrating, and long… but understanding your true identity is worth it.
How do YOU help people find their true identity?
Earlier this week I read a piece from Leslie Loftis that shares a similar idea, from a different perspective.
Interested in hearing a different take on our classroom conversations? Check out my friend Jessica’s blog.