Recently, I was working on a trial-run-basis for a small business as a receptionist. I worked for them for about a week and a half (I didn’t end up getting hired, but I’m not going to go into that because that is not what this post is about). While I worked there, I worked full-time almost every day of the week. Since I was spending so much of my time working there and it was so different from how I had previously been spending my time, I noticed that I started to feel…different. And not in the way that I would have expected. I started to see myself differently – not better, not worse, just different. I felt like I was a different person, but only just. Like my identity was somehow shifted because I spent a good amount of my time being a receptionist rather than, say, a writer, or a cook, etc. And I started to feel a bit strange. I started asking questions of myself that I didn’t really have time to answer, nor even really think about. The main question was this: Am I really defined by what I do? By how I spend my time? If I am spending my time doing something different, does my identity change? (okay I guess that is more than one question…but hey, teachers do that all the time…).
After I found out that I didn’t have the job, I started to think seriously about what I really want to do with my time. Should I really push to do something that I have a passion for, or should I simply find something that I am qualified to do that helps me pay the bills? Should I save my passions for the things that I do outside of the workforce? I don’t really think there is an easy answer for those questions.
Is my identity defined by what I do or by how I do them? Or, perhaps I should ask: How is identity defined? What is my identity, really? As a Christian, there are some easy answers: I am a created being made in the image of the Creator; I am a child of God, chosen and saved by grace; I am a part of the church, the bride of Christ; and so on and so forth. Then there are the relational answers: I am a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, a subordinate. Or the general: I am a human, a female, a 22-year-old, an American of European decent, a college graduate, an introvert, a redhead. But we know that there is more to a person than these things. God is complex and creative and He made us complex and distinctive. So what else is it that defines us? How do we really say who a person is? And, moreover, does it really matter? It feels like it matters, but that doesn’t mean that it does.
…I realize that this post is very unsatisfying and is basically one gigantic question-mark… but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to post a comment or communicate with me by any other means. I am especially interested in any scripture references that might speak to this topic.