Spiritual Parenting: Identity
We live in a fractured world with a thousand pressures bearing down on us from all sides. A fractured world tends to spread to communities, families and ultimately individuals. As a result, many of us grow up without a sense of secure identity and when we come to Christ, and try to step into our New Identity in the Lord. We can find ourselves struggling to embrace who God has made us to be.
One of the first things a child learns is his or her name. In faith-filled homes, a child’s first name is often chosen after prayer and consideration, but the last name is a statement about the family of origin. Names reinforce identity. Identity is formed in an environment of love, intimacy and care. The same is true in the Kingdom. Some of the first things we learn as new believers are how much we are loved, who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us. Those things are the foundation of Christian identity.
Unfortunately, many of us were raised in broken homes by imperfect parents who were unable to impart a sense to us a true sense of identity. As spiritual parents, we need to bring healing to the broken parts and impart true identity to our spiritual sons and daughters in a way that fosters stability, security, and personal victory. Here are three dimensions of identity that need to be imparted and reaffirmed throughout our lives.
The foundations of identity are laid in the first moments of life but continue to grow as the child grows. This is true both in the natural and in the spiritual. The sense of safety, care, and provision are imprinted on the heart of a child long before they are able to carry on a conversation. This sense of deep security is actually an expression of faith. In other words, the presence of the caring family (mother, father, siblings, friends) imparts an understanding of God’s existence and nature that will stay with the children throughout their life.
If we want to have a true family church, we must be willing to be there for new believers and members, providing the care and understanding that will secure their identity deeply in the Lord and the family.
Hope is the positive expectation of future good. Hope is based on the certainty that God’s promises are sure and steadfast. As He said, “I know the plans I have for you, to do you good and not harm” (Jeremiah 29:11). This confidence in a good future empowers us to sit higher above disappointment, discouragement and negative circumstances.
As we seek to be a spiritual family with strong identity, we continuously need to challenge false beliefs and replace them with the sure promises of God’s Word.
Perhaps the most important foundation of our identity in Christ is found in our ability to experience and express God’s unconditional love. Those of us who are parents in the natural understand the automatic nature of the love we feel for our children. The moment we see them, we cannot help but light up with delight. Even at the worst moments of inconsolable crying, a healthy parent has access to supernatural patience to love their child (Galatians 5:22–23).
A common mistake made by uninformed believers is to confuse love with blessing. While God’s love is absolutely unconditional, His blessings are almost always conditional. As a wise spiritual father, I need to convince my children of my unconditional love. That way when correction is needed, it’s never manipulative but always a true expression of God’s heart.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean we get to sidestep moments of instruction and correction. Remember scripture says “those the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son who comes to him” (Hebrews 12:6). Correction is an expression of unconditional love. However, by the time my child is old enough to need correction, they are secure in the knowledge that they are loved and confident in their own identity that they can joyfully receive instruction and grow as a result.