Proud & Pitiful: Our search for identity in the people around us.

Proud: showing the arrogant attitude of people who think they are better or more important than others

Pitiful: causing feelings of dislike or disgust by not being good enough

I think it's safe to say that humanity always functions within both of these states. After the fall of man, a major shift happened within Adam that would forever affect his offspring. In their departure from God, Adam and Eve lost their grasp on their identity, soul, joy, and sense of wholeness. Being disconnected from the One who created you can only, by nature, bring about brokenness.

From this place, we don't know God and therefore we don't know ourselves. In not knowing God, apart from His grace, we are incapable and, quite frankly, wickedly unwilling to seek Him to complete us. Therefore, the only place we believe we can find wholeness is in the tangible: people, things, and roles. I would argue that seeking wholeness in things and roles still finds its root in seeking identity in people. Validation in front of the eyes of others fills us with a sense of self-satisfaction from their praise or envy. It makes a lot of sense for us to see sin manifest itself so evidently within relationships because we are made in the image of God and we reflect His plan for us as relational beings.

God is triune – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has never been isolated in His decision-making. From salvation until the consummation of all things, the three persons of the Godhead always work together to accomplish that which will bring God glory. Even in the creation of man, we see the first mention of the triune God: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

The Godhead is three in one, all communicating, loving, and enjoying themselves within the mystery of what we know as the Trinity. Part of being made in God’s image and likeness is being made for relationships. God is a relational being; therefore, his image-bearers are relational beings as well. It was not good for man to be alone not because he was lonely, but because He could not fully bring God glory in bearing His image if he did not have another person to be engaged in a relationship with.

Sin corrupts this, though. Instead of loving people made in the image of God, we put them on pedestals too large for them to sit on. We turn people into idols. We look to them to define who we are: to complete us, to help us find our identity.

Why?

Because we are proud and pitiful.

Within our relationships, we exalt ourselves by boasting before people. This is most evident  through nonverbal displays shining through our character. We parade around our intelligence, money, homes, spiritual knowledge, false humility, self-righteous acts of service, perceived discipline, choice of clothing, faux kindness, all so that others may look at us and proclaim,"You are great!"

Layered alongside our arrogance is a pitiful human disposition. We want other humans to extol us for who we are, all because deep down inside we all truly know that we are broken. The root is pride, spreading out into branches of insecurity and arrogance. And we wonder why hidden forms of hatred plague our souls within our communities, such as jealousy, envy, and bitterness, to name a few.

To compare ourselves to God would immediately humble us, revealing the dust that we really are. So instead, we compare ourselves to the created beings we call friends. If they cannot directly give us identity, then we will get it ourselves via mental competition. Either we have what they lack, giving us an identity of being supreme, or they possess what we want, further proving the point that we are not as awesome, strong,  wise,  creative,  intelligent, or as great as we would like to be. Oh how the truth of our condition drives us crazy!

The truth is, we don't know who we are, but we do know that we are not whole nor worthy of praise. Instead of allowing the awareness of our shattered souls to drive us back to our creator to fix, we work endlessly at making sure people will see something in us that we would like to believe actually exists. We create an identity based on a fantasy and rooted in pride and pity. It is only reoriented through repentance and a right relationship with our creator.

Jesus Christ knew his identity as the son of God coming to earth to simultaneously reveal the face of God and expose the corrupt hearts of men. He was and is the image of the invisible God, the exact imprint of his nature. Though Jesus was a man of sorrows, I agree with John Piper when he called Jesus "the happiest man on earth."

“But the glory and grace of Jesus is that He is, and always will be, indestructibly happy. I say it is His glory, because gloom is not glorious. And I say it is His grace, because the best thing He has to give us is His joy...My capacities for joy are very confined. So Christ not only offers Himself as the divine object of my joy, but pours His capacity for joy into me, so that I can enjoy Him with the very joy of God. This is glory, and this is grace. (Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, Chapter 4)”

 

@@When we break the cycle of our innate identity crisis, we will find great joy@@

 

When we break the cycle of our innate identity crisis, we will find great joy –  the joy we look for in the acceptance of people. To find great joy, we must know Christ. To know Christ, we must see and savor Him for who he is .

There was a conversation between Jesus and His disciple Peter in which Jesus asked the question, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then Jesus directs His question away from the perceptions of His identity from the majority onto his disciples by asking them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter speaks on behalf of the group by responding, “The Christ of God.”

I doubt that Jesus was asking the disciples who people thought he was to find some satisfaction in others’ opinions of him, but rather to probe the hearts of those who walked closely with him. John the Baptist and Elijah were great men of faith, but they were not the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. If the disciples were blind to the identity of Jesus, they would have remained in their sins. Their faith would have remained placed in self, just as Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees of their impending doom if they refused to believe that He was who He was revealing Himself to be. (John 8:24)

To see Jesus for who he was, the Christ, they were then able to see their sin in His light and find the Savior that would reconcile them back to the Father – the Father who walked with Adam and Eve who bore His image in Eden. This awareness of the identity of Jesus propelled the disciples in walking in the truth we all fear to let lead our behavior which is that we are all broken and no one on earth can mend all that we know, (apart from denial or deception) ourselves to be.

This recognition of our identity as weak and unworthy sinners, undergirded by the awareness of God’s greatness, should cause us to utter the words of the disciple Peter to Jesus, when after revealing Himself to be all satisfying and necessary for life, turned around and asked His disciples if they would leave along with the unbelieving crowd. Peter responded, with the proper view of himself and Christ in mind, “Lord, to whom shall we go? … we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

When our souls look beneath dust to find their identity, may our faith sing, “Lord, to whom shall we go? To you and you alone."