A trend in education right now is to be intentional about knowing who you are:
- recognizing your identity by noticing and naming the parts that make you unique
- recognizing the parts of you that help you connect with others.
When we deeply explore who we are, this allows us to bring ourselves authentically to the books we are reading, the pages we are writing, and the conversations we are having with others.
But what if our enemy Satan misshapes our identity in sneaky, subtle ways leading us to pay more attention to our weaknesses and less time noticing our strengths? Satan magnifies our problems to appear to be more monumental than our blessings. Like a high powered camera lens, he zooms in on all of the things about us that we think are wrong instead of all of the things about us that are right.
Last week, we explored the covenant promise that God made to Abraham to make him the father of many nations and to bless him with descendants as numerous as the stars in the night’s sky. This promise appeared to be impossible by human standards. What I didn’t mention yet was that God also gave Abram a new name to empower him to live out his God-given identity. God changed Abraham’s name from his original name, “Abram” which means “exalted father” to “Abraham” which means “father of many.” Before bringing these promises to life, God changed Abraham’s name to match his destiny.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob, experienced a similar change in identity when God changed Jacob’s name (meaning supplanter, someone who seizes, circumvents, or usurps) to Israel (meaning one who struggles with God). Although for much of his life, Jacob took multiple opportunities to seize what he felt was due to him, God doesn’t leave him stuck in this pattern of trickery and deceitfulness. God never gave up on Jacob, and God never gives up on us either.
When Jacob made it to the point in his life where he experienced being tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, he had to work for 14 years of labor as a consequence. When Jacob deceived himself, we see a heart change inside of him. As Jacob prepared to meet with his estranged brother, Essau (which Jacob hasn’t seen since he stole the family blessing and birthright from him) we saw Jacob come to the Lord with humility:
Genesis 32: 9-12 NASB says
“Then Jacob prayed: You, Lord, are the God who was worshiped by my grandfather Abraham and by my father Isaac. You told me to return home to my family, and you promised to be with me and make me successful. I don’t deserve all the good things you have done for me, your servant. When I first crossed the Jordan, I had only my walking stick, but now I have two large groups of people and animals. Please rescue me from my brother. I am afraid he will come and attack not only me, but my wives and children as well. But you have promised that I would be a success and that someday it will be as hard to count my descendants as it is to count the grains of sand along the seashore.”
Jacob no longer relied on his given name or his grandpa or father’s relationship with the Lord to shape his identity. He humbly approaches God himself to rescue him and fulfill God’s promises through His descendants. Jacob “wrestles with God” until he has his own relationship with the true God. Then this relationship shapes his new destiny as “Israel” and his 12 sons become the twelve tribes of Israel.
Although our names may not seem to shape our destinies as much as it did for people from the Bible, I see children working through their own tricky and deceivingly false identities. Kids (and adults, too) allow their struggles and weaknesses to shape who they see themselves to be. I wonder what it might be like if we empowered children to see their weaknesses as an opportunity for the Lord to grow them? To see these moments as opportunities to make God’s power radiate through their growth?
Here are a few struggles that weigh kids down and truths that we can help them grow into:
If we allow our children to be shaped by their:
- Test scores
- Sports abilities
- Musical performances
- Colors on a clip chart
- Emotional regulation patterns
then they are only as valuable as our latest achievement, triumph, mistake, or setback.
Instead what could it be like if we empowered our children to shape their identities based on their character and strengths? We could revise our identify maps to look more like this:
May we be more like Abraham and Jacob, allowing God to reshape our identities to match who He has created us to become. Let’s not let Satan’s lies about our weaknesses be what we believe about ourselves as whole. Just like God revealed His plan to create descendants through the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our children can be a part of that big plan, too. Like the stars brightly shining and the sand unmeasurable in magnitude, God wants our children to know they are part of something bigger than themselves, part of His family. God has fashioned our children with strengths that our world needs in order to thrive. Behind every weakness and struggle is a beautiful strength waiting to grow.
Lord, we pray for the Mommas and teachers who are reading this blog today. You have children on their hearts who need to have their identities reshaped from focusing on their weakness to catching glimpses of their strengths. We pray that You will help us reframe these struggles. Please help our children to more than survive but to thrive. Empower our children to live out their strengths as they work through the tricky parts of school and life. Bring more people into their lives who see their blessings clearly instead of their burdens front and center. Thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making all of our children.
In Jesus’ name,
Would you like other ways to help your children see who God says they are spiritually? Check out a few of my favorite songs the reshape our children’s identities to be more like our God given identities: