I’m no stranger to identity issues. I grew up in a black family but as the only family member with albinism—the lack of pigment in the hair, skin and eyes. I felt like an outsider. My family loved and treated me like everyone else, but it was difficult for me to fully relate to them.
As I grew older, I learned slowly to embrace my differences. In fact, I probably rely more on this uniqueness of my identity more than anything else, because I overcame so many obstacles to accept it and because albinism is widely misunderstood in society.
But a few years ago, a pastor challenged me on this, saying that I rely too much on the outward differences of my identity. I was not in a position to receive what he was saying. I thought he was attacking my dream to promote awareness for the albino community, and I was offended.
Then more recently, another pastor told me the same thing. He said that of course I can influence people, but that influence doesn’t have to rely on my physical appearance. This time, I was in a better place to receive what the pastor was saying. As I listened to his advice, things became clear to me: My albinism awareness efforts must flow out of my love for other people, rather than my personal need to affirm my identity. It should be a vehicle to show my love to others.
We tend to judge personal worth by external factors—race, gender, socioeconomic status, possessions, accomplishments, education and even job title. There are so many competing voices that attempt to define who we are and how we live our lives. The pressure to live up to these standards is enough to lead anyone straight into an identity crisis—and Christians aren’t exempt from this.
For many of us, there’s a constant struggle between how the world sees us and who we are called to be in Christ. The world may look at our accomplishments—or lack thereof—or categorize us according to our membership status to whatever larger group we’re part of. But God sees us as members of a chosen people, a royal priesthood. How do we balance these definitions of personal identity? Do they always have to compete? What do we have to do to find out who we really are?
Is it possible that our quest to discover who we are hasn’t gone far enough? As Christians, we’re called to live like Christ. And it’s our very identity in Him that requires us to then turn our attention to the needs of others. I realized that the outreach I do is not only about spreading awareness about wholeheartedly embracing this part of my identity, but also ought to be purposed in serving, accepting and loving others. My outreach—as well as yours—is a channel through which we have opportunities to show God’s love.
God made us who we are for a reason. It’s unrealistic to think we exist in a vacuum and that our identity doesn’t affect our relationships, our local community and even society as a whole. But first we have to know who we are, before we can effectively serve and bless others. Here are a few ways to discover who God has made you to be.
1. Learn who you are in Christ.
Relationships, career pressures, family expectations, media images and countless other sources tell us every day who we “should” be. But not all these messages will be good ones, so it’s crucial to discover who you are in Christ and to hold on to this, whatever comes your way.
Not only does God accept you, but He knew you before you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Knowing what Christ says about you empowers you to live your best life. It also guards you against letting your identity be defined by destructive influences. For instance, you might have the fancy job title now, but what will happen to you if you lose your job once you place your identity in it? Your job, status, physical appearance or social standing might pass away, but what Christ says and thinks about you will never pass away. In a storm of changes, your identity will never waver when it is staked in Christ.
2. Recognize that your identity is received, not achieved.
There are so many situations where we must work to prove ourselves—at work, in our friend circles, in a new relationship or even at home with family. It can be exhausting. Thankfully, we don’t have to “work hard” to prove ourselves to God because He already chose us. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” God’s love is not based on performance, gender, nationality or personal achievement. He chose you—knowing everything about you—on purpose, and that will never change.
So, accept this bottom-line truth about who you are—and walk into the world in confidence. When your confidence is challenged, come back to this promise—again and again.
3. Live fully in the world, but don’t let it define your identity.
When we receive salvation, we’re called to be a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). But salvation is far more than just a one-time occurrence—it’s an active, ongoing process in which God renews, sanctifies and transforms us to be more like Him.
We must constantly renew our minds according to His truth (Romans 12:2). We cannot put our values and trust in the world—it’s a broken system. And if we let it define us, we will shape broken identities, when God has created us to be whole.
It’s not easy to reject the mold of expectations society would place us in. It’s not easy to reorient our self-worth by breaking from the norm of society’s expectations and turning instead to Christ and His view of us.
But the choice is always ours. And if we choose to invest in this ongoing process of discovering who God made us to be, we will become the best version of ourselves. And then we can help others to do the same.
Brandi M. Green is a communications professional by day and writer by night. When she isn't busy writing, planning events, daydreaming, taking exercise classes or focusing on albinism outreach she is catching up on episodes from her favorite reality TV showsÑher guilty pleasure.