Don’t you just love big truth stuffed into surprisingly small places?
“The question is, Who are you?” With these words, Rafiki calls a very confused Simba to recognize how lost he is, wandering around alone without a purpose or a hope. This confrontation with reality is the turning point of the entire movie. A shift in perception is the catalyst to righting wrongs and reclaiming a kingdom.
Isn’t that forever the way of it?
We live in such a befuddled culture, I feel like that wise old baboon would have his hands full whopping us all over the head and reminding us of our true identity. We’re not what we do or who we serve or what we stand for or even who we love. We’re not what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. The anchor that brought a disoriented runaway prince to his senses is the same for every believer who has trod this weary earth: our identity is deeply and exclusively rooted in who our Father is.*
This search for self we’re embarking on is a fiercely personal one, but here’s a truth for your heart: even what you learn about your wiring doesn’t define you. Only Jesus can do that. If you hold tight to this fact, you’re free to discover pretty much anything about yourself and face it with a mixture of courage and humility. If you end up loving everything about yourself, great—but it has no bearing on the core of who you are. And likewise, if you end up disliking everything about yourself, great—but it has no bearing on the core of who you are. You are and will always be “Mufasa’s boy,” a legitimate child of God. Everything else is held with an open hand.
In the middle of all this talk about self, here’s the gospel: you are fully known and completely loved. (If you have to read that sentence a million times, do it. I’d rather that one statement ring true in your soul at the end of this month than everything else we’ll discover. Plaster your mirrors with it. Make up a song about it. Heck, learn it in French. Whatever else we learn doesn’t count if we don’t center in this.) Nothing you find along this journey will take God by surprise or make Him want to back out of the relationship. He sees you, even the parts you’ll never fathom, and sings triumphantly over you, calling you fearfully and wonderfully made.
The point of this venture, friends, is to bring a fuller version of ourselves into the safest place imaginable: the presence of Jesus.
Identity is such a crucial place to start (in both The Lion King‘s plot and in our journey) because until we’re ready to take stock of ourselves, we’re not making much of a difference in the face of evil. Recognizing who we are is a brave thing. Some of us have spent so much time trying to convince ourselves we’re someone else, someone with prettier faults and less need for Christ, that reality seems very much like the enemy.
We tend to adopt a particular persona to deal with moments of crisis—it usually starts out as protective armor, a coping mechanism. But a helmet kept on for too long becomes a mask that can convince us of our own pretense. Just one more layer between ourselves and a wounding world. After a while, we have so many layers, we’re almost completely insulated from pain…and from ever truly being seen. Brennan Manning says that “living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us.” What a safe, lonely place to dwell.
Guys, I get it. I’ve inhabited that location for so long, I could provide a detailed map. Filled with hollow people who have no names and empty hearts, it’s not a land you want to live in (or even visit). The national food is cowardice, and the currency is deceit. God has so much more for His people, including a rescue mission straight into that land to set those captives free. But we must make sure we’re far clear of our own chains before moving back into that territory.
One last word as we pack up our bags and get our hiking boots ready: it’s helpful to have a friend along for the journey. I’d recommend someone who is a safe and encouraging presence for you, a fellow adventurer you can trust to speak into your blind spots. As scary as community can be (and we’ll cover it later, for sure), it would be scarier to be stuck out in the wilderness with no one to help you up when you fall. Yes, God will be with you every step of the way, and He’s already gone before you, preparing your path. But sometimes we need Jesus with skin on, right? Let’s be that for each other.
I feel like Bilbo stepping out of his front door, hungry for adventure across the wide world. He knows that if he returns home safely, he won’t be the same. We know who we are. We know Whose we are. And now we’re ready.
*The following 31 days are geared toward an audience who loves Jesus. If this doesn’t apply to you but you’d like to know more, email me and we’ll chat about the best news you’ve never heard.