Identity 101

By Jane Highley

I’ll be turning 38 this month, and that number puts me squarely in the “late-30s” demographic. It’s also the age that feels like I’ll be entering a 2-year holding pattern for the formidable 40s, which sounds really grown-up. I’d like to say that, at this point in my life, having been a Christian for 25 years, God has taught me countless lessons about the gospel and what it has to do with me and my world. I would love to announce that many of those lessons have been completed, that I’ve graduated. But God’s design for sanctification is never “once and done.” Just as I like to teach my children foundational manners and values from various situations, God delights to teach me the same three truths over and over again, as if I am perpetually enrolled in a course called Identity 101. He wants me to know that he loves me, that I am a sinner, and that he wants me to become holy.

These lessons are so elementary and yet so profoundly difficult to retain. It’s easy to recall and confirm God’s love for me when things go my way, but when things don’t (which is often), I forget that God loved me enough to save me while a sinner (Romans 5:8). I only think about myself: ‘What can I do to fix the situation? What should I do next? What is wrong with me?’ But when I have felt completely spent of my own energy, effort, and ambition—when I feel like I have nothing else to offer—that is often when God reminds me who I am. (Cue James Earl Jones’s deep Mufasa voice: “Remember who you are.”) I forget that I am no longer an orphan: lost and forgotten. Through his word and in prayer, my Father in heaven tells me to stop spinning the plates, to be like the lilies that “neither toil nor spin,” yet grow in gorgeous splendor (Luke 12:27). That imperative seems impossible because I have a Ph.D. in spinning and toiling. However, God wants me to remember who I am: an adopted daughter of the King, a co-heir with his beloved son Jesus Christ. My unearned status as God’s beloved child requires nothing from me except to receive that unconditional love. There is nothing I can add to what Jesus had already accomplished on the cross.