Surrendering Your Labels

Finding Your True Identity by Letting Go of False Ideas

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You can watch the full video of this essay above!

This essay is part of a personal series I’ve been writing on the topic of surrender, and the beauty of letting go of the need to be in control of everything and everyone. (And yes, i’m still in process! But holy moly, it’s going great, so far.)

Read Part 1 here — “Letting Go of the Reins of False-Control”

Read Part 2 here — “Surrendering To Freedom”

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At the foundation of this topic is the concept of identitywho are you, really? Are you who other people tell you that you are? Are you defined by your job or a particular role you play in your family or society? This is not about what you DO, but about who you ARE.

I believe our Christian faith should be all about helping us shed the artificial pretenses that we build up over the years. It’s about seeing our true identity as the Beloved…not the perfect/imperfect person, not the successful/unsuccessful person, not the attractive/unattractive person, etc—just some of the labels the world has thrown at us to tell us who we are. These are lies we’ve believed. They’ve distracted us from what is actually true about us.

Check this out: at our core, at our truest self—when we refuse to let fear, shame, ego, and control have their way with us—we are nothing except the image of God completely revealed for the world to see. When people look at us they see and feel love because the source of all love is imbuing us, fueling our unique abilities to communicate that love to the world in ways no one else can.

This is how I’m trying to live my life. And I love it so much.

Imagine you’re remodeling your house. You start tearing up the horrible green shag carpet in your living room only to discover gorgeous, original hardwood floors that were merely inches below. The hardwood was covered by something that someone in time decided was of greater value, only to be removed later, allowing the floor’s true essence—its true beauty—to shine through.

I believe my Christianity should be about removing the shag carpet from my life so my true essence, the image of God, can be seen.

This is what I’m trying to keep doing and want to help you do, as well. We are ripping off the layers that have been covering up our true essence. Instead of complaining about the stained, worn-out, shag carpet in our lives, we are choosing to remove it to get back to the way we were intended to be.

Another analogy I like to use is that of us being beautiful boats, skillfully made for smooth sailing in any kind of waters. The boat was made perfectly by the best craftsman the universe has ever known. Over time, life has put a gross amount of barnacles on the sides of our boat. Not only do they look disgusting, but some of these barnacles have grown so large that they now affect how smoothly our boat gets through the water. These barnacles are affecting the water volume getting to the engine and in through its cooling system, leading to an engine that runs way too hot at high RPM.

Many of us have been wondering why our life feels like nothing but chaos, no matter how hard we paddle. No matter how much we shine the brass, or deck out the cabin, there’s always something holding us back from where we want to go.

Do you feel this way? As if you know in the deepest place inside of you that you’ve been designed to sail on grand oceans with ease and fantastical exhilaration? I certainly have moments when I feel this way!

Our boats need a serious scrubbing so we can sail like the craftsman intended. Our hearts are craving an act of redemption.

We are starting to figure out that we’ve been wasting too much of our energy on the wrong things—focusing on making everything on the outside look awesome, all the while we’re deathly afraid that someone might look in our closets or under the beds and see where we’ve shoved everything. Your boat may look awesome from the dock but go underwater and it’s easy to see why your boat doesn’t seem to be operating to the best of its ability.

Our identity and self-worth can’t come from how our boat looks from the dock—no matter how impressive our life might look to others (or even to ourselves!). We’ve spent too long trying to make our outsides attractive, sometimes even claiming “we’re just trying to be a good witness.” Our identity and self-worth also can’t come from how our boat looks under the water. We can’t judge ourselves by the amount of barnacles and gunk we’ve acquired over the years—the messes we’ve made, the destruction we’ve caused, or even the bad things others have done to us.

I love this boat and barnacles analogy because it cuts to the core of our identity and self-worth, and what we are allowing to determine how we feel about ourselves.

What is the most authentic version of you? And what hinders you from seeing it in the mirror?

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At our most authentic selves—the self without the out-of-date shag carpet and other clunky trappings we thought would give us self-worth—we reflect love so purely as the image of God. We become great beacons of light, love, hope, grace, forgiveness, unity, and wholeness. (Gal. 5:22-23)

I’ve lived most of my life being insanely critical of myself, thinking I was somehow honoring God with intense awareness of my failings, walking around with my heart coated with shame and self-pity. No more. We have to get our identity from how creative and incredibly unique our boat was originally made. This is our baseline. It’s quite amazing when you think about it: there’s no other boat in the entire creation that looks or runs like yours. Not only that, but because of how matchless you were made, your experience in the water will also be unlike anybody else’s.

Sail on, friend!

Saving My Faith is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.