Prescribed Actions

Does what you do define who you are… or does who you are define what you do?

During the sermon today, Ben Harmon posed these questions and it really got my mind going. I wrote about definition last week and how I sometimes find myself letting what I do define who I am. I knew that I wanted to write more about this topic but I wasn’t sure when. Then, as God often does, he used the sermon today to show me once again that I already have a definition… I don’t need to waste time trying to define myself through what I do (which I wrote about last week in the post titled Fauxtographer) but today I realized that I also need to remind myself of who I am, otherwise I just continue to let other things define me. It is hard for me to always think through this in a logical way so I wanted to try to write down my thoughts while it is still fresh.

Does who you are define what you do?

I think everyone can answer yes to that question in one way or another. Most people claim that they don’t like to be labeled, but I think – at least a little bit – people actually do like being labeled because it gives them an excuse and a reason for their actions. What they don’t realize is that it is a trap. A label locks you into thinking about yourself through the lens of the description. When people are told that they have depression, an anxiety disorder, an eating disorder, a mental illness or cancer, they suddenly have a reason for the way they have been feeling… it tells them who they are and gives them an prescription for their actions. When a prisoner is released, they are still labeled as a felon. This doesn’t give them license to commit another crime, but it certainly makes it much harder for them to pursue things that are fulfilling and beneficial. Likewise when someone gets a labeled with depression, the doctor isn’t suddenly giving them freedom to live in despair, but it instantly becomes harder for them to be cheerful because they are convicted by, “I have depression”. These labels can eventually consume and destroy people if they continue to only see themselves through the definition they were given.

I like to know who I am because then I know how to act. For example, I’m a marketing assistant at a bank… therefore, I go to work Monday-Friday and assist people in the marketing department. If I knew I worked at the bank, but had no idea what my job was when I got there, then it would be utterly pointless for me to go to work. My title there defines what I do. Last week, when Xav and I were shopping for groceries, I tried to explain away my bad mood with a myriad of definitions and excuses. I told myself that “I’m just feeling insecure” (so I don’t want to smile), I’m too tired (so I don’t want to talk) and “I’m misunderstood” (so I can be grumpy).  All those little titles came in waves during a short shopping trip and were simply spurred on by the fact that I had just finished a long day and I wanted to let my feelings label me. I can only imagine how many more excuses would flood my mind if I was labeled by someone else… But I have been labeled by someone else.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

God labeled me a “new creation”.

God calls me His child. God calls me His servant. God calls me His disciple.

As Ben preached during the sermon, these labels call me to action also, but instead of luring me to feel self-pity or shame, they enable me to love other people, they call me to give up my way for others and they motivate me to tell people about what Christ has done. Instead of trapping me in sadness, God’s labels give me a purpose, direction and hope (something that no other labels can ever truly give). I want to hang tightly to my new labels and not try to go back to any of the ones that defined me before Christ saved me. I am no longer a slave to fear, no longer a slave to craving a perfect body, I am no longer a slave to despair. Yes, those old labels can still call my name and try to define me. But when I truly see what Christ did, how He bought me with a price when He died on the cross and how He intercedes on my behalf everyday, then I no longer desire to accept old labels.

Part 2 – the definition of me series

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