by Tony Nester

A God-Given Identity
Tony R. Nester
Matthew 3:13-17

I heard a story about a soldier who had suffered a traumatic wound in World War I and had lost much of his memory. He made a practice of attending veterans' conventions and crying out, ''Can anyone tell me who I am?''

Each of us has to answer the question, ''Who am I?'' We all need to be named. It's one of the gifts our parents give us - they name us.

In our younger years we're desperate to find friends who like us, approve of us, and tell us we belong in their circle of relationships. This is a dangerous time because we're so hungry for acceptance that we'll say and do things we don't really want to say or do just to be included.

We can't stand to be alone. We're nothing, we think, without being named and included by others. Ridicule and exclusion are painful to bear - so painful that some students explode in anger with deadly shootings and attacks at their schools. Others fall into depression or simply give up trying to make something positive of their lives.
Like that WWI veteran, they don't know who they are. They need somebody to tell them who they really are.

But this isn't a problem merely for our younger years. We adults often lack a clear sense of who we are. That's because we've had so many ''names'' thrown at us we're not always sure which ones are true.

By ''names'' I don't mean our proper names but the way people describe us. ''You're smart; you're stupid.'' ''You're attractive; you're not attractive.'' ''You're good; you're bad.'' You're capable; you're not capable.'' ''You're a success; you're a failure.'' These are the labels people pin on us and they give us our sense of who we are, our identity.

You might think that we would each name ourselves and decide our own identity. But that doesn't work. It doesn't work because naming ourselves doesn't meet our deepest needs - certainly not our need to be loved. We can tell ourselves all day long, ''I'm lovable,'' but until ...

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