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.

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