By Elisha Galotti
We live at a time when, in new and powerful ways, popular culture and social media invite us to find our identity in what is visible, what is seen. The combination of Hollywood’s power along with millions of individuals continually uploading picture-perfect images of their lives can leave us tricked into believing that our identity is in our beauty, our size, our youth, our intellect, our career, our income, our home, our children, our relationships. Does it strike you that every single thing listed in the previous sentence is something that can, or even will, change during our lifetime? What might also be striking is that, even when our identity is rooted in the love of Christ, we still sometimes find ourselves falling into patterns of thought life where we place our hope in what is visible instead of what is invisible.
What defines us? Far too often we allow the focus of our gaze to rest upon the parts of our identity that, though visible, may one day change. Instead, we need to remember the life-giving words the Apostle Paul wrote to his brothers and sisters in Colossae: Since then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).
Bodies change. Faces wrinkle. Relationships (even the ones of profound value) can be broken. Intellect can be shattered by disease. Or in the reverse, we lose weight. We get in better shape. We look more outwardly beautiful. Broken relationships are restored. There’s an unending list of ways that our visible identity can change, either for better or for worse. The point, then, is not whether the visible parts of our identity are lovely or whether they are difficult. In fact, many of the visible roles of our lives are ones that are incredibly blessed roles: we are daughters; we are sisters; we are friends; we are wives; we are mothers; we are professionals; we are stay-at-home moms; we are working-moms; we are grandmothers; we are teachers; we are musicians; we are writers; we are dancers… Of course the list could go on and on. But in every single one of these roles, blessed as they are, good gifts as they are, they are the visible parts of our identity that may change.
The visible can change; the invisible is eternal.
The unseen, invisible identity that we have in Christ will never change, even through death itself. What does it look like to have an invisible identity? What does it mean to have, as the Apostle Paul describes, hearts set on things that are above? More than all else, it means this: Jesus. It means having our hearts and our minds fixed on Someone whom we can’t see, but whose love defines us not just today, but for eternity.
Our bodies, our minds, our relationships are temporary; every spiritual blessing we have received in Christ is eternal. It is worth saying that this does not mean that the temporary, more visible parts of our identity are somehow in a separate category from our spiritual life or worship, or that the parts of our identity that can change are not profoundly important. Not at all! But these outward identities and roles we have was never meant to define us.
We are defined by our union with Christ, and it is out of this union that life’s purest blessings flow. It is truly the invisible that defines us. We are eternally forgiven; eternally adopted; eternally loved by the Father. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Elisha Galotti is a pastor’s wife and mother to three children, ages 5, 3 and 1. Though her B.A. is in Communications, she worked as a ballet teacher before staying home with her little ones. Elisha and her husband, Justin, live in Toronto, Canada. She blogs regularly about faith and family at thegalottis.com and you can find her on Twitter @elishagalotti
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