If we let the world tell us who we are, we will never hear who God says we can be.
I know I write about football about as much as I write about hope, but I can’t help it. I think the two are connected. I think there are some lessons that you can learn on the field that apply to life. And I love hearing football phrases. I’m probably the only one out there both cheering for my team and listening to the art of announcing.
One of the terms I’ve heard a lot lately, especially this season, is “they are finding their identity.” For some that could be code for not quite as good, but I also think it is a huge invitation for untapped potential. As much as people try to, they cannot write our story. The verdict is still out. And we hold the pen.
I know a lot of players buy into the hype. They hear things about themselves or the team, whether it’s true or not, and they start to believe it. I know a lot of people like that too. Their identities become reflections of the voices around them and not the truth inside them. We let others determine our worth, our skill, our status, our happiness without ever questioning the authority we allow them to have in our lives. If we look outward to find our identity we miss the process of looking up to see our worth. We miss the opportunity to humble ourselves and allow God to mold us. If we let the world tell us who we are, we will never hear who God says we can be. And that kind of identity is as fleeting as yesterday.
I mentioned the phrase finding your identity and I’ve given it quite some thought. I like it but I think it can be dangerous. A team, a player or a person who is finding their identity usually has something to learn. Sometimes they are raw and inexperienced and sometimes they are a veteran having to adjust to a new season. They have to learn the plays and what works as well as what doesn’t work. They have to build trust in their teammates. They have to shake off the critics and find their way. And they must allow the coaches to guide them if they want success. The potential is there if only they dare to see it. The danger comes in when they look to the wrong places for their identity. Other athletes, fans, the media…there is always something out there fighting for our hearts and one thing I’ve learned in the game of football is that miscommunication and a lack of focus on the field always leads to missed opportunities. Some of the battle is offense, some of it is defense and a lot of it is playing like you want to win.
There was a specific game last year where the idea of identity really resonated with me. My team was down and the other team seemed to have all the momentum. Things didn’t look good, but the game was not over yet. I was suddenly clinging to the hope of a comeback. It wasn’t necessarily probable or likely but it was possible. And somehow it happened. The field turned, we took the lead and we won the game that moments before had looked hopeless. It was then that I heard God say, “Nothing and no one is too far gone to be a candidate for a comeback.” The world is full of critics and they are always going to tell you that the game is over or that you’re not good enough or that you will always be that fill in the blank scarlet letter you carry around. But you are not defined by labels the world sticks on you. You are bought with a price by the blood of Jesus. You are worth so much. And God is standing front row in the stands of your life just waiting for you to make a comeback.
I don’t know what season you find yourself in—a freshman quarterback or a fifth year senior and captain of the team, but you still hold the pen to your story. If you are trying to find your identity all you have to do is look up. God is whispering ever so gently that, “you will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Be encouraged—the battle is Yours!