Posted by: JennyRain | December 28, 2009

Further along the road of Identity

How our identity is created, transformed, and maintained is not only my life passion – it has also been the subject of many a seminary paper for me.

My professors quickly picked up on this and allowed me to express my curiosity from within the parameters of a variety of research papers.

Particularly fascinating to me is how our Christian identity intersects with our psychological identity, so I tended to focus on themes of sacred and psyche – pausing around the edges of science when I discovered physiological descriptions that helped me understand why God encouraged us to “do this or that.”

What is identity?

One of my favorite quotes from a paper describes essence of my relentless pursuit on my race towards identity. If we are fully human, but called to intersect our lives with a Being who is fully Divine, what does that mean for our identity formation?

I believe that we are living in a horizontal manifestation of a vertical reality. Our eyes of faith look up to ascertain meaning, but our feet of faith must walk out and forward to understand it. Life is totally twisted if we attempt to discern it from a human rather than a divine perspective because God’s ways are always higher than ours, His means are different than ours, and His work is often baffling to our not-even-close-to-Divine senses.

Yet to live a fiercely authentic life, the life we are designed to live, the life that integrates our fully-human-self with the fully-divine-Other, we must consistently live a story larger than us. I believe it is at this intersection of the Divine and humanity that the most exciting transformation to our identity occurs. It is where our humanity meets God’s Divinity that life becomes intransigently exciting and abundantly livable!

Ahhh, in English please?

Who I am has already been decided in heaven (Exodus 9.16; Jeremiah 1.5; Ephesians 2:4-10; Romans 9.10-12; Ephesians 1:4-6, Matthew 6.9) and my life is the process of discovering it walking in union with the God who created me.

I am someone “in process” but also someone who has been “determined,” and how the two of these states exist in equilibrium is beyond my pay grade of understanding.

Suffice to say the two points of being “in process” and being “determined” – I believe – must remain in a dynamic tension of which I live out my life in the middle.

Clear as mud right?

Psychology often teaches that our “core self” is ninety-eight percent programmed by the time we are seven or eight years old (i.e. “Determined”). Therefore, most of psychology’s success lies in teaching the client “coping skills” to deal with the “self” that has been created.

Our identities are created by “nature” or “nurture” or a combination of the two, and once our core psyche, our core “self” has been created – it is very difficult to change.

In summary, once a sociopath, always a sociopath.

But if that is the case, how do we explain the radical transformation that humans often walk through?

We have all had friends who have made a radical 180 in their lives, or perhaps only a radical thirty degree change that has transformed everything around them. How do we explain this if we are truly “90 percent programmed” by age eight?

It is because transformation is as real of a concept as the inability to change is.

Think about it – if transformation was not such a powerful force in our universe then people would not pursue it with so much vigor (think about the time, products, and money spent on “personal transformation” efforts, or “life coaching” from individuals who are living the radically authentic life that we all want to live).

Humans do not rest in this place of being “pre-determined” but race after transformation and change like it is the golden egg. We – at some level – all believe that we are “in process” towards a better self.

So here we are again at the dynamic tension, and it is into this place that I believe God’s reality intersects with our perceived reality – and our True identity begins emerging because who I am is so intricately woven within the Divine

Theologians describe this as follows:

Augustine believes that “the possibilities of human life are immense, but the actual human condition of alienation from God renders these possibilities unattainable apart from divine grace” as only is it through “the redemptive work of Christ that the deformed image of man is reformed and restored.” Aquinas believes that it is “faith and the illumination of revelation” that enables humans to “attain the knowledge of God for which it was created”

Humans are living an “immanent (psychosomatic) and transcendent (spiritual)” reality as our existence “transcends towards God, whose absolute being is the goal of the spirit’s desire.”

Augustine to Freud: What Theologians and Psychologists Tell Us about Human Nature. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004.

Our “fundamental human need” centers upon a restored relationship with Christ. It is through this essential relationship we are determined, but also through this essential relationship that our identity transformation can occur.

To be continued…

Part 1: Peering through the Looking-Glass Self

Part 2: Chaos and identity development

Part 3: Further along the road of identity

Part 4: The Power of Naming




  1. […] I explained in my previous posts on identity, I grew up in a pretty chaotic environment. Once I was through […]

  2. […] Part 3: Further along the road of identity […]

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