What I was searching for was me

I’m taking this senior seminar on the Gospel. It’s been kicking my butt recently, trying to figure out what my theology of the Gospel is and wondering what Gospel it is that I will be preaching when I’m a pastor. Asking hard questions like whether we are creating disciples of Christ or people who think they are going to heaven no matter what. It’s been a really challenging and rewarding class.
This week we had a lecture from one of our Old Testament professors. Somehow we got onto the topic of individualism and the formation of our identity. Our professor (who is nuts about the discussion of identity) was talking about how there is this new generation in the church (or just in our culture) that are really into this whole idea of being an individual and not like anyone else. And then he started talking about our identity and asked us how much of our identity was completely up to us. How much of our formation was our own doing? He wanted a percentage.
I thought about it, about the things that I claim have created me into the person I am and realized that the majority of identity forming events and people in my life were not of my own doing. I didn’t choose them, I didn’t choose the way I reacted to them (at least not consciously), I didn’t choose any of it. Identity has happened to me…creation has happened to me. I am a passive identity-maker.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have responsibility for the person that I am, that’s not it. It’s more that the people that I am surrounded by and the events that have endured are what have shaped my identity. To speak in more spiritual terms, my identity has been handed down to me by the Creator. I have become who I am now because of how he formed me and the people that he has placed in my life and around me.
So if that is true, how much of an individual can I be? How can I stand out and be “different” than anyone else if I have little control in who I am? And in all honesty, being an individual in this culture in this time means more of how I dress or what music I listen to than fundamentally who I am. I think about how many people struggle and fight to become different than everyone around them only to become more like the people around them.
So when we are talking about youth ministry, when we are talking about students who are consciously trying to figure out who they are–how do we instill in them that their identity is not their own but rather handed down from their Creator. That there is a God out there that has an plan of who they are and how they should live. Yes their God created them as an individual but an individual called to live in community with other individuals.
We are individuals created by a creative God who wants to see us living in communities with other individuals without being individuals. We have a common good, we have a common goal, we have a common God to worship together.
Still thinking through this one…what are your thoughts?

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