I often try to define myself by the things that I think are most interesting about me. The things I like that people don’t expect me to like or that no one else likes. The things that make me different. My long hair. My love for Mello Yello. My insistence on wearing flip flops year-round. I once tried to sum myself up by saying I’m a preacher boy and my favorite color is purple. How foolish.
Those things do not define me. I am not just the way I look. I am not just the way I dress. I am not just made up of my preferences and the list of the things that make me different from everyone else. I am so much more than that.
There is an idea in psychology called the Gestalt principle. Basically it says that a thing is always more than the sum of its parts. This may sound a little abstract, so let’s look at an example. Look at the image below. What do you see?
You probably see a panda bear. But if you look closely, the image really isn’t of a panda bear. It’s several disconnected black shapes on a white background, but when they come together, they form the image of an animal. The whole (the image of the panda) is more than the sum of its parts (several disconnected black shapes).
I think we would do well to see ourselves this way. We are more than the sum of our parts. You can take all of my experiences, all of my successes (and failures), all of my preferences, all of my characteristics, everything I’ve ever said and done and been in my entire life and put them all together. And yet, that will never completely define who I am. I will always somehow be more than that.
If none of these things defines me, then what does? What is the “more?” I find the answer to that question in scripture. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible tell us that God made man in His image. I have no idea what specifically this verse is referring to, but I know that there is something inside of me, something about me, that reflects the image of my God. How incredible is that? John 1:12 tells me that through Christ, I have the right to become a child of God. Not only am I made in God’s image, but I am God’s child. In Christ, I find my identity as God’s child and God’s reflection on this earth. This is who I am. This is the “more” that nothing else about me could eever even come close to adding up to.
And the same is true for you. No matter what it is you try to define yourself as, whether it be an activity (“I’m an athlete”) or a talent (“I’m a singer”) or anything else, you will always be more than that. You are more than your mistakes. You are more than your achievements. You are more than your actions and your intentions and your feelings and your regrets. You are a reflection of the God who made you. And through Christ, you have an opportunity to become a child of God! I can’t think of anything more interesting or more special than that.
So here’s my challenge to you. Don’t define yourself by your mistakes. Or by your achievements. Or by what makes you unique. Find your identity in Christ today and find peace in the fact that you are God’s child made in His image, and that is the only identity you’ll ever need.