Culture, Spirituality

Who Do You Think You Are?

Kimberly N. Alleyne
The Harvest Magazine
Reflective Essay

Fingerprint Rainbow
Photo illustration Kimberly N. Alleyne

Have you watched, “Who Do You Think Are”? It was initially broadcast on ABC, but now airs on TLC. Viewers watch celebrities learn revelations about their ancestry. In this episode, actress Rachel McAdams and her sister learn about their family tree.

It’s an interesting subject, what we call identity or heritage. Some say our nation is suffering an identity crisis. Whether that is accurate or not, there certainly are scores of individuals who cannot decide how they want to identify themselves, long to be someone else, or simply hate whoever it is they think they are.

These are folks who mimic others rather than embracing their own unique and beautiful individuality. They say what think others want them to say, dress to fit in a clique, even adopt the ideologies of others all in an effort to fit in. They adjust their personality to meet the approval of one or a group. Their entire identity is defined by someone else.

Heartbreaking, no?

The thing about identifying as a Believer is that you have no doubts who you are. You know unequivocally that you are a child of God, and a joint heir to His throne and nothing changes that: not a name change, not a tattoo, not cosmetic surgery, not an addiction, not gender, race or ethnicity. When you’re in, you’re in #forlife. When you join the Kingdom, you join a larger body of Believers, who all share the same DNA. In the Kingdom, it is God who defines your identity, and no one can alter it or take it from you. It is yours forever.

It does not matter what a co-worker thinks about you, or what a parent or spouse said to you. What matters is what God says because His Word is tried, true and unchanging. I am much more interested in what my Father says about me, and who He says I am:

Romans 8:17–And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.

Psalm 139: 14–I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Identity

When we base our identity on what people think, we open the door for our hearts and spirits to become diseased, wounded. and closed. And think about it? Why would you base your esteem, confidence or identity on what someone else thinks? Someone who likely does not even know who they are? Come on.

I recently worked with a gentleman, who despite spending a portion of his life to attend seminary and proclaiming to be a “man of God,” spared no tactic in belittling me and letting me know disliked me. I mean this guy really, really disliked me. He was downright mean, going so far as to even make disparaging remarks about me–repeatedly–to my employee.

It was ugly.

It was also painful.

I shed a few tears.

I prayed for peace between us and that our relationship would improve. I tried to chat him up. I tried to be extra kind. Heck, I even brought him homemade gumbo one day because I knew he liked it. Nothing worked.

And finally one day as I was praying, I got a life-changing revelation: this guy is just a guy, and the fact that he professed to be a preacher shone poorly on his witness (In fact his witness was raggedy). So why would I change anything about my fearfully and wonderfully made self for some dude who probably does not even know who he is?!

Crickets and Groucho Marx

And you know what? At one point soon after mistakenly forwarding an email to me that was about me, (You read that right–He accidentally sent me an email in which he wrote, “Something about Kim irritates me.”) he came to my office to apologize and burst into tears. He shared that he was experiencing a difficult time in his personal life; he also revealed that he struggles with depression.

Photo by Mark Robinson
Photo by Mark Robinson

I gotta admit I had a flat affect, folks. I was not moved. It was as if the crickets came out early just for this occasion. It was a like a public library or a Groucho Marx movie–silent–as he waited for me to react. I had no words for him. Not. One. Word. Don’t misunderstand me. I am a sensitive person, but challenging circumstances are never an excuse for poor behavior, particularly for those who are in spiritual leadership.

I accepted his apology, but I also released him. In that moment as I watched the flood of tears gush from under his frames, I realized, “I am ok. This is a broken man, and he ain’t got a heaven or a hell to put me in. I know who I am, and he needs my light, not the vice-versa. Stop caring.”

And with that, I was free. Even after that moment in my office, his poor behavior continued, and we never became chummy colleagues. He has since left the organization, and I continue to pray for him. You see I’d be just as broken as he is if I had not forgiven him, and if I didn’t pray for him from time to time.

I share that to serve as a reminder that you must always remember who you are. Don’t get twisted up in what someone thinks or says about you, or even how they treat you. Who cares? And don’t let someone else’s brokenness define who you are; you don’t know what deep-rooted ugliness someone may be tormented by. This applies for everyone, including “spiritual leaders” like my former colleague.

I know who I am, and I’m loving it. I want you to do the same—Embrace your identity because your Father will always claim you and pour out His love with condition. Even when no one else is there, He is (Psalm 27:10). Isn’t that a liberating notion?

So, who do you think you are?


Do you have a personal story about identity? Please share it with us at theharvestmagazine at gmail

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