Editor's note:

Our new Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Spe­cial Projects, Bri­an Morykon, joins us today with an always-time­ly piece from the vault. Is our iden­ti­ty just the accu­mu­la­tion of our thoughts, feel­ings, per­son­al­i­ty traits, and expe­ri­ences? Or is it some­thing else? Bri­an shares how he is find­ing his spir­it renewed by unmask­ing the joy-rob­bing thief” of unhelp­ful men­tal habits and claim­ing his true iden­ti­ty as Abba’s child.

—Renovaré Team

What hap­pens when you find out that the life you’ve lived could have been bet­ter — much bet­ter? That’s what a 60-year-old Japan­ese truck dri­ver had to grap­ple with when he dis­cov­ered he was switched at birth after being born to a rich family.

Some­times you get hand­ed a key with­out know­ing what door it goes to. That’s what this recent NPR sto­ry was for me. It gripped me, it felt sig­nif­i­cant. But I wasn’t sure why.

Then it hit me. I am the old truck dri­ver. I’m a prince con­vinced he’s a pau­per. To explain let me share a lit­tle bit of my story.

A deep sad­ness has haunt­ed me for some time. Melan­choly and intro­spec­tion in many ways felt like my iden­ti­ty, part of my DNA. If they were lost, I rea­soned, I’d also lose the pos­i­tive sides of those neg­a­tive traits: crit­i­cal rea­son­ing, deep reflec­tion, and self-cor­rec­tive think­ing that leads to bet­ter work and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. And so I sim­ply lived with — even embraced — the cloud that hung over me. If there’s no cloud, there’s no rain. If there’s no rain, there’s no growth. So I thought.

It turns out there was no rain in that cloud. The cloud was smoke, smoke from a wild­fire of habit. And the habit was so sub­tle it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to ques­tion it: I believed my thoughts are true. I believed my thoughts are me.

For exam­ple, a thought like this comes along. 

Your work is mean­ing­less, like a drop of water in the ocean of the world. God wish­es you were doing some­thing more with your life. 

The thought may not come in so many words. It may come in more spir­i­tu­al lan­guage that lever­ages guilt in an attempt to make me try hard­er. There may be no words at all. In fact it may come and go so fast that all that is felt is the ran­sacked mind it leaves behind. But slow down that tape and the thought can always be spot­ted. Even now in writ­ing out one of those thoughts it feels as if I’ve caught and unmasked a joy-rob­bing thief.

A wind of truth is blow­ing that smoke out of my heart: I am not my thoughts. I am not my sin. I have respon­si­bil­i­ty, it’s true. Sin crouch­es at my door and I can open the door or not. But sin is not my iden­ti­ty. Allow­ing this truth to sink in is one of the most impor­tant steps in embrac­ing my adop­tion as a child of God.

Paul talks about this in the oft mis­quot­ed Romans 7: It is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me. 

Peo­ple use this as an excuse to live a defeat­ed life. 

Well, there it is right there in the Bible, even Saint Paul couldn’t do what he want­ed to do. I guess we nev­er do get the best of that old sin nature until we get to heaven.” 

Two words of wis­dom: keep read­ing! Paul is tak­ing the read­er some­where and it is unwise not to fol­low him all the way to his destination. 

Take a few min­utes this week to read through Romans 7 and 8 in one sit­ting. The Mes­sage trans­la­tion in par­tic­u­lar cap­tures the flow of Paul’s argu­ment all the way through. It is good news of stag­ger­ing pro­por­tions. It’s true there are things that won’t be set right until the Mas­ter comes back and makes all things new. But in no way should that make us think all the good stuff has to wait until then. After all, this res­ur­rec­tion life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tend­ing life. It’s adven­tur­ous­ly expec­tant, greet­ing God with a child­like What’s next, Papa?” Rom 8:15 MSG

We use often use curi­ous phras­es with­out real­iz­ing it. I just wrote: make us think.” But noth­ing real­ly forces us to think a cer­tain way, does it? A thought presents itself and we either buy in or we don’t. There may be good rea­son to buy in but it is still a choice. In the same way John com­mends us to test the spir­its so also we are to test the thoughts to see if they are from God.

You see, there is a place in us deep­er than our mind and that deep place knows cer­tain things to be true. From that place in our spir­it, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Holy Spir­it, we can use our will to direct our thoughts. The bib­li­cal word for this is repen­tance, a turn­ing of thoughts towards truth. Speak­ing Scrip­ture aloud is most effec­tive for this.

So when sad­ness comes charg­ing toward me, rid­ing the back of a dark thought, I may speak some­thing like this.

That thought is not who I am. The Lord is my shep­herd. I have every­thing I need. He leads me beside waters of rest. He restores my soul. In Jesus I am made right­eous. I am the beloved, a child of Abba God. Thank you, Abba, that you smile on me. Thank you for your patience and kind­ness. Thank you that because of Jesus sin no longer has domin­ion over me.

In doing so my renewed spir­it through my will speaks aloud to the unre­newed parts of my mind to bring them into agree­ment with the truth. The sad­ness often lifts. If it doesn’t I may call a friend. Often the mind responds to truth when it is spo­ken by some­one else. The results are felt in my body, in my fam­i­ly, in my work. I am a pau­per no more. I remem­ber whose child I am and inher­it the soul-set­tled peace the Father has promised.

Originally published March 2014

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