“We live our lives consciously and unconsciously seeking to fulfill the expectations and the agendas of other people and groups. We thus constantly seek permission and validation in our expression of…the spiritual life. We learn that our lives don’t belong solely to ourselves, and that in fact, our okay-ness, our worth, our validation, are in the possession of others. This becomes an intolerable way to live, and the realization gradually dawns that perhaps a person might withdraw the search for identity and validation from those around him and instead begin to look within.” Michael Dwinell, Fire Bearer
More than a year ago God gave me a vision of my future; a picture who I would be and what my life would look like someday. To show my gratitude to God I abandoned that vision and instead tried to find my identity and validation in the opinions of the people around me. It’s been more than a year since that vision, and I am tired of trying to fulfill the expectations others have for my spiritual and religious life. The well-intentioned expectations of various constituencies have become a heavy burden.
I can never keep these constituencies simultaneously happy, either. Full alignment with any one group causes relational, religious, spiritual, and theological friction with other groups. What results is a messy juggling act whereby I attempt to keep everyone in my spiritual and religious life happy; everyone, that is, but me. In every area of life there is the temptation to please everyone around us at our own expense. There is always a cacophony of voices ready to tell us how we have erred, ready to correct our thinking and behavior. It often seems easier to placate these voices than to look within for a sense of identity.
However, Dwinell challenges me to, “withdraw (my) search for identity and validation from those around (me) and instead begin to look within.” My worship leader cannot tell me who I am. My small group leader cannot validate my relationship with Jesus Christ. My pastor, no matter how well intentioned, will always counsel and direct me toward his own image of who I should be. That is the nature of humanity: To want to shape others in our image. It is a rare and enlightened individual who can resist this temptation and allow others to be who God shaped them to be.
I want my life to belong to God and no one else. I want to be validated by the Spirit of the living God inside me, not a person with his own flawed agenda. I want my sense of worth to flow from the Word of God and the knowledge of who I am in Him, not from fulfilling the expectations of others.
I am ready to take back my sense of spiritual identity; are you?