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By William Thomas
Special to The PREVIEW
In this secular society in which we live, most people generally define themselves in one of two different ways. They either define themselves through their career or they define themselves through their relationships with other people.
In the past, I have tried both ways to define myself, with disastrous results.
Whenever I would try to find myself in another person that I was friends with, it would destroy the friendship. Making another person responsible for my identity put so much pressure on that person that our friendship would wither away and die, resulting in a painful loss of identity for me. What followed was years of depression.
While attending middle school, I defined myself as being a good student. At the time, that identity worked for me because, at that time, I was a good student.
However, during high school, I started to experience the first symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as schizophrenia. My schoolwork suffered as a result. Now that I was no longer a good student, I had lost my identity, again resulting in years of depression.
Ninety percent of all schizophrenics are completely unemployed. Of the remaining ten percent, many only work part time. Therefore, only a relative handful of schizophrenics ever have a career. I can only work part time, so I am not among the handful that can define themselves through their career.
Defining myself through relationships with people destroys those relationships. Having schizophrenia makes it impossible for me to have a career. If I were to define myself as being a schizophrenic, it would just make my schizophrenia worse and cause me to wallow in self-pity.
So, how are the millions of schizophrenics like myself supposed to have any identity at all?
Jesus provided the answer in Matthew 16:24-28.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
“‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
“‘For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
“‘For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angles, and then He will reward each according to his works.
“‘Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.’”
Jesus was talking about defining yourself through your relationship with God. You deny yourself by no longer defining yourself through your own accomplishments, be they career or relationships with other people. You take up your cross and follow Jesus by defining yourself through your relationship with Jesus.
If you desire to save your life by seeing yourself as being all about your own accomplishments, you will lose that life because your accomplishments are meaningless.
If you lose your life for Christ’s sake, you will find life, because those who find their identity in Christ are full of life.
You can gain the whole world through your own personal accomplishments, but you will lose your soul because your accomplishments are hollow and empty. The “reward” for personal accomplishments and not having a relationship with God is to be dead inside. However, that inner death can be replaced with life through Christ, by defining yourself by your relationship with God.
Now that I see myself as being one of God’s adopted children, my identity crisis is over and the years of depression I experienced are also over.
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