I have a chronic illness. It has been a big part of my life for nearly fifteen years, and though not as debilitating as many it still has dictated many choices and placed many restrictions on my life.
The thought strikes me that as difficult and frightening as this illness had been at times, being healthy, to me, is also a frightening thought. I’ve had this illness so long I don’t remember normal. It has, in some ways, become who I am. There have been many times over the course of my life that I’ve been cautioned not to let my illness be my identity, not to let it define me. But how do you do that?
It’s not that I don’t want to be healthy, far from it, I long to be free of the “doom” doctors diagnose me with, but healthy is so foreign a concept to me as to be beyond everything I know myself to be. I want it, so badly, but at the same time, healthy is beyond even what I can comprehend.
There is another area of ourselves we can be this way about: our very sin nature. All those areas of self that we know are not healthy, and yet we cling to.
It’s not that we want to sin, but sometimes even the idea of letting go of certain areas of our lives can feel like letting go of an actual part of our identity. We want to call them harmless and ignore the issue. They have become who we are. To give them up is to give up self.
It seems we need someone to give us a new identity.
Did you know that giving us a new identity is exactly what Christ did?
He has taken each of us, defined by sin, defined by greed, defined by circumstances and wounds and every word ever spoken over us, and He said,
“You are mine!”
And here, in this place, He redefines us.
Instead of dirty and wrong, we are Pure.
Instead of hopeless and lost, we are Found.
Instead of worthless, we are Priceless.
Instead of rejected, we are Loved.
Instead of sinner, we are Child of God.
The thing is though, walking in this identity is frightening. We don’t know it, it’s unfamiliar.
And somehow we condemn ourselves for feeling this way, like I often feel condemned when someone tells me not to let my illness define who I am, because, quite honestly, I often do.
Can we stop that? Can we stop condemning ourselves for this? Let’s be honest here, it takes a while to get through an identity crisis.
If God ever brings healing to this body, I’m probably going to go through an identity crisis. I won’t know the rules of my life anymore, and it may very well be frightening, even paralyzing. It will probably take a while to step out and do the things I’ve longed to do, to have the nerve to live healed and whole.
But that’s alright. I’m willing to go through all that change and stumbling around like a child learning to walk, because I know life is on the other side.
In the same way we can know that as we hobble along, taking on the identity of Christ, we’re going to stumble too, but it’s OK.