So if you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a closet sports fanatic. I’m that leaping off the couch and screaming at the television sort of person. I realize I should never be a coach of any sort – I’ve threatened the US Olympic team loudly in my living room so many times and it’s not even been a week in Rio (“we will trade you! I don’t care if it’s an international competition – we will transfer your citizenship so fast!”). I get invested in the athletes, in the team. But it’s not just about the Americans. It’s those athletes from the world over that come to compete with an incredible story, who have defied the odds, who have fought to get to that opening ceremony. I love the underdog, I love the champion. They all have different stories, different things that define them and make them who they are. They’re all driven to compete by different things. And they give it their all.
One of the American divers this past week said something to the effect of “my identity doesn’t come from a medal. My identity is rooted in Christ.”
I love that. My identity is rooted in Christ.
In the span of thirty seconds, I heard that and realized I was in the middle of a massive identity crisis.
So often we identify ourselves by mortal and societal means – “I am ___.” That blank is sometimes filled in by a nationality, a religion, a profession, a defining attribute. And that is a big part of who we are. More often than not, however, that blank is filled by our shortcomings or our mistakes. It is filled by the trivial because our finite-for-now minds can’t even fathom being rooted in something bigger, something so vast that it transcends the daily struggle that is mortality.
Why? What is it that keeps us in this identity crisis, that keeps us from recognizing and declaring who we truly are? That’s something I believe to be intensely personal, part of our own individual journeys of faith and of understanding. It takes a lifetime.
We regularly say, “I am a child of God.”
This is truer and more powerful than I think we often realize. We say it, and it doesn’t sink in. We see it on Pinterest, and rather than thinking, “I am a child of an eternal and loving Heavenly Father,” we think, “oh, what cute typography” or “that would look great framed in the nursery.” We hear it, and our minds immediately go to the opening notes of the Primary song, then drift off into the recess of who-knows-where in the mind.
But what if it did hit us? If it sank into our hearts in such a way that we knew, without any doubt, hesitation, or justification that we are children of God? That Christ is our brother, and that we as men and women are rooted in who He is? What power would blossom within our souls? How would our outlook change? How would we see our victories, and more importantly, our trials? Rather than lamenting who we aren’t, who would we become?
Carl Sagan once said, “we are all made of star stuff.” What if we realized that we were not just made up of star stuff, but also of the stuff that created that stardust, that drop in the ocean, that perfect little infant, that ray of sunshine, that blade of grass, that giant boulder, that comet streaking through the sky, that grain of sand, that vast universe, that made that exquisite person who is reading this obscure blog post right this very moment?
(That exquisite person is you, by the way)
Having our identities rooted in Christ means rooting ourselves in eternity. It means we are embracing His Atonement at every opportunity. We humble ourselves. We forgive and are forgiven. We are never alone.We find peace in the midst of chaos and hardship. We fight – we aren’t passive about what we believe and what we know. We understand that we call God our Father because He made us as His children, as His sons and daughters. We understand that every day we have the opportunity to start fresh and to build on a foundation that is immoveable – Jesus Christ. We begin to seek not just the hand of God, but the face of God. We walk hand in hand with His Son out of the bondage of our own minds and temptations, are washed clean, and stride into a path that is straight and narrow. We work beside Them, we seek Their example and Their direction as we go about our Father’s business. We learn to love our brothers and sisters regardless of who they are, what they have done, or what they believe. We bind up those broken hearts and lift up those hands that hang down. We step from mortality to eternity.
Why do we need to know Christ, and strive to root our identities in Him? President Ezra Taft Benson said it best, in my opinion. He was talking about parents teaching their children about divine nature and celestial origin, but I think the title “children” is even more important when we’re talking about people who might not be considered children by society’s standard. Because that’s who we are to God and we need that reminder. This is what He wants us to know.
“Children need to know who they are in the eternal sense of their identity. They need to know that they have an eternal Heavenly Father on whom they can rely, to whom they can pray, and from whom they can receive guidance. They need to know from whence they came so that their lives will have meaning and purpose.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 187).
God wants us to know that because we are of Him, we can always rely on Him. We walk beside Christ, and when we mess up, fall down, strike out, or just can’t move any further, They are right there, hands outstretched, arms open wide.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy, trying to root ourselves in Christ and forge our identity out of eternity rather than mortality. It’s exactly the opposite of what the world tells us to do. Discouragement comes. Trials appear. Setbacks occur. Sometimes we can’t get out of our own heads to see where we are and how far we’ve come.
It’s a process. A daily one, at that. I’d even go so far as it’s a minute-by-minute, stroke-by-stroke, step-by-step venture that requires more heart than we think we have.
But we can do it.
Because when push comes to shove, being rooted in Christ means that we understand that while we might be imperfect today that we are, with the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the love of an eternal and merciful God, perfectable in eternity.
When we root our identities in Christ, our hearts expand. Our view is opened. Our capacity is expanded. We are bold. Love and peace become our battle cry. Obedience becomes nearly effortless. Our weakness is overwhelmed by the strength of the Atonement. We become unwavering in the face of adversity. We are steadfast as the waves of mortality crash around us. We work hard and rest easy. We are not bowed by fear, but built by hope. We hold our heads high knowing that because of Christ, we have won the victory – over death, over pain, over sin and temptation. We see the hand of the Lord more clearly. He is our first thought and our last thought. Our sights are heaven-bound as our knees are bent to the earth. We become more confident, more joyous, more humble, more Christ-like. We are unified. Things come together.
Instead, we tend to get caught up in the dust of the world, in those fill-in-the-blanks that get us distracted. We forget that we truly are wonderfully and fearfully made for something bigger than this earth. That forgetting gets us down, it keeps us from our potential and from assuming the role that we were made for. It keeps us smaller than we are.
That’s our identity crisis. It’s a great big one. Forgetting who we are meant to be in favor of who the world tells us we ought to be.
Figuring out how we root ourselves in Christ is a personal thing. We can learn from each other and support each other, but we have to do it on our own, with just God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost beside us.
Ofa, the sister-of-my-soul and fellow passenger on the struggle bus of mortality (we’re both full-fledged RM members), posted this quote on Instagram the other day by Howard W. Hunter: “There is within each of us a giant struggling with celestial homesickness.”
Within each of us.
We are each a giant who gets caught up in thinking it’s small, struggling because we are homesick, because somewhere deep down, we know this isn’t the world we are meant to be in forever. Each of us.
In short, when we root our identities in Christ and in eternity rather than the things of this earth and of mortality, we become the very people that God created us to be.
That’s where our identity really lies.