Ronda Rousey and Identity

I don’t follow the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and I’m not really a fan. But, it has been impossible not to be aware of who Ronda Rousey is. For some time she has been considered the greatest female fighter ever, was sporting an undefeated record, was making the crossover into acting and modeling, and there was even talk of trying to get her to fight a male opponent. The hype around her transcended the MMA world. Then she lost. Shockingly. Unexpectedly. And it was the talk of the sports media for weeks. Unknown to everyone but her inner circle (until recently), was the struggle that Ms. Rousey has had accepting this defeat. She was experiencing a dark night of the soul. And it gives a crystal clear picture of the power of source of identity. In a recent interview on the Ellen Show, Ronda said: I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself and that exact second I’m like, ‘I’m nothing, what do I do anymore and no one gives a s— about me anymore without this, This quote is from an article in the Huffington Post and it contains a video of Ellen’s interview (available here: caution there is some explicit language). When here invincible status was taken from her, notice her words. “I’m nothing” Her worth was gone and she was overtaken by shame, a feeling of worthlessness that had nothing to contradict it. The perception of self that Ms. Rousey had was affected by what she knew others would think. People would move on. When people’s affirmation of you is based on victory,...

Right or Wrong

The Bible is replete with stories of those who did what was right in their own eyes. Adam and Eve head this list that would then be followed by almost every other biblical character. Abraham and Sarah. Jacob. The Israelite nation. Peter. To name just a few. When we do what is right in our own eyes, the flip side of the coin is that we do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord. No where is this pattern illustrated more clearly than in the book of Judges. Over and over we read the phrase like this from 3:12a, Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, Doing what is right in our own eyes is a product seeking wholeness apart from God. Attempting to find our worth – our identity – apart from our Creator, we will do whatever it takes to sustain that false sense of self. Identity forms our filter for decision-making. Our identity forms the lens through which we see the world and our place in it. In Christ or out, we make decisions that support our identity. Giving us a sense of worth and providing a covering for our shame. So for instance, if your sense of wholeness is related to being married or even in a committed relationship, then if you are single you are going to make decisions that lead to finding a partner. If you are married, then your decisions will be filtered through what is going to keep my spouse happy with me. Identity forms the lens of our values. What is right and what is...

Sabbath – Identity and the Fourth Commandment

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8 – 11 Work is not a curse, it a part of the image of God we bear. For the first man and woman in the garden, work was an expression of their communion with the Creator. Part of the reflection of his glory to the world. But for a people who were in the midst of exiting slavery, work would not have felt like a gift or a product of design, but rather a death sentence. So, God reminded the Israelites that He set the standard for work. In the days of creation. Then He introduced Sabbath, a day of rest that would have been startling to a person who had spent their entire life in slavery. God created the rhythm of work and rest. Yet, in the garden, at the fulcrum event of the Fall, mankind’s relationship with work changed. Rather than responding, the creation was not going to fight back. There was going to be pain and toil. Mankind was also going to look to work...

Correction That Lasts

In the mail last week I received a book to review that was billed as a ‘Christian response to 50 Shades of Grey‘. This book was an attempt at correction for Christians who had bought into sexual submission fantasies. As I flipped through the pages, it occurred to me that this book might be just as confusing to the message of the Gospel as the pleasure-is-all-that-matters message of 50 Shades. The idea of correction was centered on creating a sense of shame as a way of changing behavior. Both of these books are bound to leave the souls of their readers unsatisfied and untouched. The lead character was led to cover her shame by making herself the plaything of a man. On the other hand, covering shame with ‘right’ behavior will lead to a religious person who is far from God. Which beckoned the question, what is godly correction? Without a doubt, when we notice – in our self and others – behaviors that do not honor God, we should make every attempt to curb them. As we see unhealthy ways of relating, people should be counseled out of them. When our decisions are destructive, we should lovingly be made aware. But correction does not end with the command to ‘just stop‘. Correction must go deeper than simply telling our self and others to ‘try harder‘. That is the gospel of self-effort, and it ends miserably in exhaustion and burnout and the rationalization that God must not care because nothing has changed. The behaviors, decisions, and ways of relating we exhibit are symptoms of a deeper problem that must be addressed. That is...

Let It Go

Touch the hand of a newborn baby, and the infants reflexive instinct is to grab hold. When a person falls down, their instinct is to reach out and grab hold of something for support. What every human experiences physically is also the condition of the soul. The soul clings to something to cover shame and give a sense of significance and value. We all seek identity in something, whether is is a relationship, role, status, wealth, or something else. So, the advice to ‘let it go’ is not great advice when given by itself, because our instinct will be to grab hold of something. Thus, we either return to the familiar and comfortable for a sense of self, or we trade one thing for another. This has been my own experience. As a people pleaser – deriving sense of self from the affirmation of others – I spent years trying to please my spouse so that I would then feel worthy. When that failed, I turned attention to seeking affirmation from my role as pastor. One idol was substituted for another. Throughout the Bible, God has made himself available as the thing that we cling to for identity. Living in communion with him to have our basic questions of worth (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity). In Christ, we have both an example of what clinging to God looks like, and also an image of the invisible God – truth in the flesh. Truth that we can substitute for the lies that motivate us to cling to false sources of identity. As we take captive our thoughts, our decisions, behaviors,...

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