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Who do you think you are?

The question of identity is one most people spend their entire lives trying to answer. Beyond a sense of self, identity carries our sense of worth and purpose. Our college years are especially formative as we explore our unique interests and experience a new measure of independence. In a society fascinated with labels, we tend to identify ourselves by our differences—our upbringing, our ethnicity, our field of study-or even through a relationship.

In the individualistic paradigm of our western world, we define ourselves. We are the product of our dreams, our desires, and our choices; instead of receiving our identity, we achieve it. Our very worth depends upon achieving it. Harold Abrahams, a character in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, captures this mindset in his admission, “When that gun goes off, I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence.” This is the reality, and the tragedy, of individualism; when we must achieve our own identity, we become enslaved to the endless pursuit of an empty ideal.

“When that gun goes off, I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence.”

Christianity employs a profoundly different paradigm, one in which we are defined not by ourselves, nor by our culture, but by our Creator. Although the fall has marred our identity as image-bearers, when Christ redeems us He recreates us in His image (2 Cor. 5:17, Rom. 8:29). Our identity is not in what we do, but in who Christ is. This truth frees us to pursue our work and relationships for His glory, not ours, because we no longer depend on those otherwise good things to define us. Chariots of Fire illustrates the clashing of these two paradigms with another character who starkly contrasts with Harold Abrahams. Eric Liddell regards his running as a gift rather than as his identity. In a key moment of the film, he explains to his sister Jenny, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” He later gave his life for Christ in China.

“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Your identity is not in how much you make, your intellect, the color of your skin, or even your gender. While these things may describe us, they can never define us. Whatever our specific vocation, our identity empowers us to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). Defined by Christ, we are called to reflect Him in everything that we do, and thus to feel and share with others His pleasure.

Hosanna Gonzales

Vintage Editor 2016