I have been inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself to write today’s blog post. As I was subjecting myself to a rather painful foam rolling session in front of the telly, the news came on and I learnt that through a DNA test, The Most Reverend Justin Welby has discovered he is the son of Sir Winston Churchill’s last private secretary, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne. Until this point, he believed he was someone else’s son. I imagine this must have been quite a shocking revelation to him! At the same time, I feel I can certainly relate to him more now that I know that he is also from a broken family background and had a similarly difficult childhood like I did. But what has really struck home is his reaction to the findings of the DNA test:
“I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.”
This really made me think about where my own identity is rooted and how my childhood background and experiences in adulthood have influenced this.
Among our most important beliefs are those we hold about who we are, they are the strongest force in our personality which determine our actions, behaviours and how we view the world around us. Psychologists agree that developing a positive and healthy sense of identity – how we are known by ourselves and by others – is an important aspect of fostering wellbeing, confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately, resilience.
According to Rumi, the Persian mystic (who happens to be one of my favourite poets), the purpose of life is to discover your real identity. The meaning of life will be answered when you find your true identity:
“What you seek is seeking you.”
So how do we find our identity? This seems to be quite an elusive task and for many people, it may take a lifetime to find the answer. This quest is not without dangers, either, as there are many traps which can lead us to faulty self-identification – through the success in our jobs, relationships, looks, our past failures etc., The dangers are especially apparent in our earliest years when we are the most vulnerable, as we are developing into mature adults. And this is why it is so key for parents and carers to realise the important role they play in shaping children’s sense of their own identity, for example through regular expressions of their love for them, spending quality time together, giving positive feedback, reassurance, guidance etc.
As I said earlier, I grew up in a broken family. My father left my Mum when my brother and I were only small toddlers but old enough to understand something was wrong. (I don’t really see the point of going into the reasons of my parents’split up – suffice to say that when relationships go wrong, it usually takes two.) Witnessing my Dad packing up and leaving, even begging him to stay with us in my innocent, childlike way definitely put its stamp on how I saw myself for a long time, doubting my own worth (despite my Mum’s and grandparents’best efforts to provide my brother and I a safe and happy childhood): rejected; not loveable enough; not important enough; not wanted enough. Even though I have had contact with my Dad throughout the consequent years, I never felt he was particularly interested or committed to being a real Father figure, but more like a casual friend who turns up for important events such as graduation ceremonies and birthdays etc. I think the anti-climax of my relationship with him was my very own wedding day in 2012, which he decided not to come to (due to me expressing some concerns about inviting his alcoholic and unpredictable wife).
I guess that could have been a major dent on my self-esteem, but it really was not. Because by that time, I had firmly rooted my identity in my Heavenly Father. Our wedding day photos and the joy on my face speak for themselves, with my Brother standing next to me on the most important day of my life, and giving me away to my husband:
The Bible says that I am God’s masterpiece (Epesians 2:10); I’m fearfully and wondefully made (Psalm 139:14); I’m a Child of God (1 John 1:3); God has laid down his own life for me (John 10:11) and nothing can ever separate me from his love (Romans 8:38-39).
So together with The Most Reverend Justin Welby, I can wholeheartedly declare to the world: “I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.”
So this is where my quest to find my true identity has led me to.
Where is your own quest leading you to? How do you define yourself?