Brendan O”Neill has observed that “Self-identification is one of the most notable developments of the 21st century so far.” The New York times calls 2015, “the year we obsessed over identity,” noting our nation is “in the midst of a great cultural identity migration.” The phrase, “I identify as…” speaks to a crisis in character. In past individuals were. “I am a man.” There was a certainty about identity. Today individuals identify as something. “I identify as a man.” “It speaks to a shift from being to passing through; from a clear sense of presence in the world to a feeling of transience; from identities that were rooted, to identities that are tentative, insecure, questionable.” Identity has become unstable, open to change. Feeling have become the reality. The result is, ” a minimal self,” who out of insecurity expects validation and acceptance from society. “Self-identifiers claim words wound, that individuals are vulnerable, and that their ‘mental safety’ is threatened by those who question their right to exist.”
Men, the new phenomena of identity-making is a crisis in the meaning of personhood, leading to a great uncertainty about being fully alive and fully human. As wild men, who are fully alive to their masculine souls, we can offer an alternative to the alienated, subjective identity-making that is creating a quiet despair in our culture – “Who really am I.” Let us rise up as an army of men, who have solid identities in Christ, and present a positive example to a lost culture. “What we are facing in the 21st century,” warns O’Neill, “is the very serious situation where all the objective underpinnings of human identity has frayed or died.” Here are a few reminders of your identity as a man in Christ.
First, understand that personhood is a gift given by a relational God, who desires relationship. Our identity is given by God addressing us as his “beloved.” It is bestowed by a loving God. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). God who exists in relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created each of us, endowing us with a unique individuality as persons. When God is absent from the cultural narrative there is no valid basis for being addressed as persons. We are left to create our own identity. So celebrate your uniqueness, by coming to know your unique personhood as a man. Along with the Psalmist praise God: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it” (Ps 139: 14 NLT). Resist self-making, by allowing your heavenly Father to love you into becoming a person, fully alive and human..
Secondly, accept the reality of our “flawed nature” with its tendency to live independently of God. Our sin causes us to be separated from God as well as from ourselves. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6). We live as individuals in separation, not persons in relationship. We have wandered into the far country, living as orphans away from home, with no sense of identity or place. But our loving, heavenly Father calls us home, affirming our identity as men.
Thirdly, our culture has lost the story of relational homecoming. With the lack of identity comes the sense of homelessness; a kind of wandering in a desert of relational weightlessness. We have the unique opportunity to share the story of our coming home to the Father, who identifies us as his children. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who live in loving community, invite us into this relationship. We are called home into a perfect loving community.