I am a Christian. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a son and brother. I am a salesman. I am a coach. I am a runner. I am a reader and a writer. I am a traveler and an explorer. I am a friend.
So if I am all of those things above, what is my identity?
The past two weekends, I coached a high school AAU basketball team at a couple of tournaments where college basketball coaches come and watch young men play to determine whether or not they want to offer them a scholarship or spot on their basketball team. As I looked around at all of the coaches, players, parents, college coaches, and fans with their various team logos on their chests, it got me thinking about identity and how we define our identity.
It is the dream of nearly every boy on our team to play college basketball, and it is also the dream of everyone we play against. They identify themselves as basketball players and are identified by the name of the team they play with in the summer and the number on their jersey. Their emotions rise and fall on how well they play each game and whether or not they play in front of enough college coaches, not necessarily whether we win or lose. Last weekend, we played well, won and took the picture above. This weekend, we played average and went home on Saturday. Their parents, too, allow their identity to be controlled by the success of their sons, thinking that if their son can just get a college basketball scholarship it will validate them as a parent.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting on the other side of the court with those college coaches, wearing my school logo on my chest and watching game after game of AAU basketball in the summer. Being a college basketball coach became my identity, it consumed me and was the only way I could define myself. I have a lot of friends still in the business who have let it become their identity and I saw several of them the past two weekends. It has destroyed marriages, distanced them from their children, and forced some great guys to become very one dimensional. I talk to them now and there doesn’t seem to be much to talk about beyond the surface basketball chatter. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to get out of college coaching and define my own identity.
So what is identity? For me, now, it is realized only by a blending of the things that are important to me and the way I spend my time. I enjoy my work, but it doesn’t define who I am, it feeds the identity that I now create. I love my kids, but their successes and failures do not define me as a person, they only express some of my own strengths and weaknesses. The things I enjoy doing in my free time: running, hiking, biking, reading, and writing are great outlets for me but I try not to let my pursuit of those passions become all consuming. And my marriage is the most important thing to me on this earth, but it is there as a support and reinforcement to the identities of my wife and I, not the definition of our identities.
My identity lies only in who I am right now, not by what I’ve done in the past or what I’ll do in the future. It is a reflection of who I am this moment – am I loving and caring for others; am I modeling Christ in my life today; am I working hard at the work put before me and doing it to the best of my ability; am I enjoying the moments that I have with friends and family; am I creating things that add value to people’s lives? My identity can no longer be boiled down to a logo on my chest, it is only now the outward actions of the desires of my heart. That is who I am.