The Issue of Identity

We all want to be accepted, loved and assured that we belong and have value in someone else’s eyes (if not our own). My parents were of different ethnic, cultural and racial backgrounds. They met in what I can only describe as the most unusual of circumstances and married at a time when marrying outside of one’s race was still considered taboo. I am a product of the 60’s and 70’s in terms of social influence and survived through living in inner city, sub-standard housing including some pretty ghetto (oxymoron I know) housing projects.

I grew up in some of the rough areas of Los Angeles in what was once known as South Central L.A. and my parents frequently moved from and to various neighborhoods in an effort to find a safer home for us. Through this transitory experience of constant moving, we were frequently faced with curious, often well meaning but sometimes cruel inquiries as to what we were. ‘What are you’? was a frequent question we encountered? Our father was African American and our mother Japanese. So we looked as if we could be Pacific Asian Islanders (Samoans, Hawaiians, etc), Hispanic, and often we were ostracized with slurs and other derogatory labels.

As a child, this had a negative impact on my self perception and although I viewed my self as an African American, I was always acutely aware that I was biracial. Being biracial means you are neither one nor the other but equally both. So after much soul searching (when I was in my late teens) I allowed my childhood experiences in the African American community to shape my views and perspectives on society, American culture and politics. This was a form of self indoctrination that heavily influenced my relational interaction with others. And while I thought I had this together then, I was in fact still growing in maturity and understanding. It was when I entered my early twenties I was again challenged to re-explore or re-assess what I felt was my sense of identity.

I worked at a factory in the late 70s and met a guy who was a Christian. This guy was about 4 or 5 years older than me and he was actually very cool. We worked in a two man set up making resistors (it was an electronics manufacturing company). It was boring and monotonous work, I mean really…making resistors all day, 5 days a week. The highlight of the day was when you had filled the bag and could stop long enough to take a batch to another department for testing.

So this guy, I will call him ‘Joe’ would work really hard! I mean he put allot of effort into what I thought was a job that, well I couldn’t understand why? Like I said, it was really boring so most people would feel compelled to cruise and just get by. Not Joe, he worked hard and on his breaks he read the bible! Now I was no stranger to the bible, I just didn’t know why he chose to read it on his break. This combination of bible reading and hard work caught my attention.

One day, I asked him ‘Joe why do you read the bible’ so much? He said ‘I believe in God’ (or something like that…keep in mind its been a long time since this conversation so much of this is anecdotal recollection on my part). I then asked him ‘Why do you believe in God’? He smiled and said ‘Well, when I think about who I know myself to be…how complicated I am as a person…my thoughts and emotions…I just cannot believe that I evolved from a lower life form (like a monkey)…

Now this blew me away because up to this point, I had looked to society to provide me the criteria for what I would use to define who I was and I viewed my identity through the filters of race and cultural heritage. This seemed quite natural as I was a product of the 60’s in an inner city environment. During the 60s there was a desperate need in my community (and within myself) to find something positive to identify with. We were fighting allot of negative self imagery, but I never thought about this on a spiritual level because my mind was still very carnal and everything was judged based on appearances sake.

In the 60s and 70s, we were expressing ourselves through our appearance and it was cool to look as if you were a revolutionary! There was only one problem; I was only looking at the external and attempting to use that as a means to define myself. I realize in retrospect that was naive and not unlike so many teens experience today. You have but to look around today and see teens with the ‘gothic’ look… they are saying ‘we are different’ and this image is what we want to represent who we are. They hope their appearance will define them to society… but this too is vanity and superficial because it cannot address the deeper aspects of one’s identity and being.

So after thinking about Joe’s comments, I must admit it forced me to rethink everything I thought about who I was and whether a God was the reason for my existence. And if this was true, how would I process this in terms of my identity? So yes, Joe lead me to question myself and my lack of relationship with this God that he knew so well…and he lead me in the sinner’s pray to accept Jesus Christ (right there on one of our breaks)!

So, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and Jesus changed everything. He changed my views on my identity and I learned that God is not a respecter of persons. I realized that I had become a ‘new creature’ in Christ and that in fact, I had become born again. I realized that the exterior or the outside appearance of a person is nothing more than a shell or a tent and that we are in fact truly spirits. We are spirits (our essence), we have a soul (our mind and emotions) and we have a body (our physical body). We are in fact a tri-part being (three parts make the totality of what we are).

When I learned that we were made in God’s image and that we have his DNA, I began to think about the superficial trappings that society uses to define identity (race, ethnicity, outside appearances, cultural differences, etc) and it dawned on me that Satan uses this to divide mankind. Satan uses tools of race, racial bigotry, racial hatred and racial shame as tools to divide man and to keep him confused as to his true identity. You are not what your parents ethnic and or racial make up would suggest.

You are in fact a spirit and in this sense, we are truly all the same. The only question is do you know that? Or are you still thinking the external superficial appearances define who you are? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a child of God and you are not defined by externalities, but rather through your relationship with Him. You are royalty, you are an heir of the most High God, you are destined for greatness because you are a child of God!

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Be blessed and have a great day!

WAG Publishing


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