A Texas-based pastor recently shared tips with young adults about how to tackle an identity crisis when someone is wrestling with Jesus.
Pastor Kylen Perry of Metro Venue in Houston served as a guest speaker at The Porch, a young adults ministry at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, where he preached on Sept. 5 a sermon about "contorting" identities.
“Many of us feel like we have to be different things for different people because we're not safe being the real us with anyone,” Perry preached. "And yet, too often, we realize me being me isn't quite enough. And so, we start contorting ourselves."
“We contort ourselves professionally and socially and romantically and even spiritually because we're just trying to be enough for everybody out there, until the point that we contort ourselves so much that we don't even recognize ourselves.”
Perry discussed the story of Jacob, an Old Testament patriarch who the pastor said struggled with self-identity and had to wrestle with God after he lied about his identity by stealing his brother Esau's inheritance.
He noted that while Jacob was a "hero of the faith," he was also "a scoundrel" and "a con artist" who became "whatever he needs to become to achieve whatever he wants to achieve because he's really just not happy with the way that God made him."
The pastor referenced Genesis 32:22-24, which talks about Jacob being about to meet Esau for the first time in years, and, while left alone, having to wrestle with God.
Perry said it was "not coincidental that God will only confront Jacob's identity issues when Jacob is at last alone" as "the same is true for you and me."
"If you want to get to the bottom of your identity crisis, your problem, your issues, then the first thing you need to know is that you have to stop hiding behind other things," Perry said.
"You have to stop hiding behind other things. This is the way that God will work in our lives as he tries to establish and affirm his God-given identity to us.”
Perry told the young adult audience that “it isn't until we're truly alone with God that we're truly available to God,” and we must "separate ourselves from the various things that we find our identity in.”
“Before I worked in ministry, I found my identity in my job and in my relationship status and how much money I was making, what my friends thought of me,” Perry said. “Everyone of us is identifying with something other than God Himself to find some sense of security in this life."
"But, it's only after all of those things are rid from your presence, when everything is removed from you, that you become available for God to actually fix. … You have to be vulnerable to become fixable.”
Perry emphasized that "we must remove anything that we would normally find security in until we are vulnerable enough for Him to do His work."
“Trophies are the possessions that we acquire by adapting our identity. These are the things that your paycheck purchases for you, where your money goes to at the end of the day: the car you drive, the place you live in, the clothes you wear, whatever it is that you spend your money on,” Perry said.
“For Jacob, this was his property, his servants. This is all of his wealth. But he sends all of this stuff to his brother because he doesn't want his brother to come and do poorly with him.”
In the same way that Jacob did, Perry said, many people find their identity in the things they own and in titles, which he defined as “the positions that we acquire by adapting our identity.
"For Jacob, because he stole from his brother and he was trying to angle his way into security, what did he find? He became a husband and a father and an employer and a property manager,” Perry said.
“For you, it's going to be, ‘Man, I work in this job? I'm not as popular among my friends. I'm the best looking in the room.’ I don't know what title it is for you. And yet, it's in trophies and titles that we find our security. God will take all of it away to fix you.”
Perry told the churchgoers that God loves His creations too much not to confront their identity issues, adding that God "doesn't want to leave you wrestling with whatever insecurities you feel about yourself, whatever anxiety hangs over you about those things that you wish you could change, that you cannot change."
"God wants to tackle that stuff head-on. He wants to confront it directly. And yet, too often, we don't want this for ourselves. But God's a good dad in doing so," he said.
Perry pointed out that after Jacob wrestled with God and eventually surrendered to the Lord and sought a blessing, God blessed Jacob.
Perry believed that, "rather than just suppress them or obsess over" parts of one's real identity that a person struggles with, they "we should confess them."
"We should just tell Him. God knows. He made you. He literally put you together. He knows exactly the things that you feel embarrassed by, that you wish you could change; those aspects of your identity that you're working so hard to contort and just make sense to the rest of the world,” Perry said.
“The difference in who you are today and who you become tomorrow is found by way of wrestling with Him. So, we don't avoid the fight. We don't run from it. He wants to engage with us. So, we engage with Him. And we trust Him to deal really kindly with us because that's His heart.”
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post.