See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16a
God has been speaking to me lately about identity, about my real identity as he sees me. About how a false identity, one built on lies, is like a cracked or crooked foundation, skewing my whole life.
“And His Word makes it clear: at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – Anne Voskamp[i]
My whole life I have given in and accepted other people’s definition, the world’s definition, of my identity pounded into me from birth – mangled, marred, not good enough, just not. But, thinking that way makes me an innocent victim, while in reality, as Tim Keller writes in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from Him.” The truth is hard to accept when you are chin-deep in self-pity.
“Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Ouch! I don’t want to hear that. That listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying, martyrdom is sin. Accepting that I am beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way wrote that lies about her identity had “become like my own name engraved right onto me. Fraud. Phony. Not Good Enough.” Engraved right on me too. I have always felt like a fraud, a pretender. I think it comes from having to perform in the crazy, imaginary theatre of other people’s heads for so long. Like removing a regretted tattoo, this engraving has got to go.
God has engraved my real identity on the palms of his hands. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16a). I know that, in this context, this verse is about Israel, but I believe it is about all whom God loves. He has engraved me on the palms of his hands, a place that is always visible to Him. How can I not engrave His real identity into my heart?
Lover (Song of Songs 6:3)
Redeemer (Psalm 14:16)
My Life (Colossians 3:3)
Restorer (Joel 2:25)
And if I do that, I have to accept who he thinks I am, who he made me to be – beloved. That is hard for me, after a lifetime of self-rejection and even self-hatred. Still absorbing that – not only how he sees me but what does accepting that truth mean? Being open to what he wants to make of me.
“There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into His hands and let themselves be formed by His Grace.” –Ignatius[ii]
How can God form me if I have “set” myself rigidly in a mold of lies? I must be pliable as fresh, new clay. The old me must be broken up, must die, be made over. I feel that after 45 years I am just now beginning to realize – and to admit into the secret place of my soul – the breadth and length and height and depth, the passion, the zeal of God’s love for me. Words cannot contain and it will take eternity to grasp. Where my treasure is there is my heart and my true identity. Let Him be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value. Lord lift the veil over my mind and bring life-giving revelation of how you see me, how you see us all. Beloved child of God.
[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way. P. 184.
[ii] Letter to Ascanio Colonna (Rome, April 25, 1543)