This is the first in a series of posts on the 5 Key Relationships (5KR).
Your Foundational Relationship
We’re starting here for a very important reason… This is the relationship that determines how you will show up in ALL the other relationships in your life.
Your relationship with God defines you.
Now, I know that sounds a little… “churchy” but you’re gonna have to bear with me on this if you’re not convinced yet.
I feel like a broken record saying this, but there is a key concept here that you need to understand.
Not exagerating… you HAVE to understand and internalize this, or everything you do in life will leave you empty.
The key concept that I’m talking about is IDENTITY.
Where does our identity come from?
This is a sticky question, because our identity is shaped by a lot of different things in our life.
- Siblings/Family members
As we get older, our identity tends to get adjusted and reshaped (to some extent) by things like our job, our income, and our spouse.
Thanks to the influences on our life as we were growing up, and also possibly our current influences, we may also draw our identity from material things like our house, the vehcile we drive, the things we own (if I’m being completely candid with you, I draw some measure of identity from the guitars that I own and play!)
So all of these forces or influences from the totality of our life blend together into a big “identity soup” that we use, when convenient, to help us determine who we are.
The dark side of identity
Deriving our identity from anything that was listed above can feel amazing in the moment.
If you’re in great shape, or make a lot of money, or are a celebrity, or are admired and adored by your spouse and children, that’s great.
And it make us feel great.
But here’s the thing…
It can be taken away from you at any second.
You could lose that job and salary. You could get seriously hurt and not be able to work out any more. Your spouse could cheat on you, or you could get so wrapped up in the admiration that you make a similar decision that destroys your marriage and family.
If you relied solely on those external sources of validation for your identity, what would be left with if you lost them?
Why do you think so many people are depressed?
Why do you think so many people numb themselves with food, substances, prescriptions or entertainment?
Why do you think celebrities that, from the outside looking in, seem to have everything one could ever want or need, take their own lives or suffer from addictions ranging from drugs to illicit sex?
They’re probably getting their identity from external and unreliable sources.
If the external validation stops, they don’t know what to do.
Suddenly they’re left alone with nothing to fill the silence but their own thoughts.
And they’ll do anything to drown out those thoughts.
Why? Because they’re often trying to run away from or overcome an identity that someone else gave them.
Something they’re desperately trying to shed.
Unloved or unlovable.
Not good enough.
Which brings us to another problem with external sources of identity.
What does culture teach us?
Self-esteem culture tells us that we’re ok. It tells us that everything we need is inside of us, we just have to be more confident… or love ourselves more… or move on to something else.
Listen, I love personal development stuff.
Just like the Manosphere, there’s a lot of good information out there that can improve your life.
But it suffers from the same shortcoming, in that you’re completely reliant on yourself (or some other external source of validation).
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Get a new job. Go to the gym and get shredded.
What happens if you can’t meet the goals you set for yourself, though?
Even worse, what if you DO meet those goals. Then what? Can you stop?
Then things get more confusing for men.
You’re told that you need to work hard and provide for your family. But work too hard and people will tell you that your kids don’t need your money, they need you.
Media tells you that you need a six-pack to be appealing to women. But work hard at the gym and people will tell you you’re a narcissist.
Of course, that’s shifting some… Now some media will tell you that “dad bods” are in. But get your dad bod on, and your wife won’t find you as attractive (no matter what she says!)
It’s hard to win when the goalposts keep moving.
That’s the problem with all these worldly standards of identity.
They’re even changing, and can be taken from you at ANY TIME.
You need a source of identity that doesn’t change.
All that brings us to the most important relationship that exists in your life.
Your relationship with God.
I really appreciate what Ephesians has to say about this:
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.Ephesians 1:4-7, NLT
How’s that for an identity you can build your life on?
Loved and chosen.
Adopted into his family.
Covered by grace.
No matter what any other person has ever told you, you can cling to this promise of who God says you are.
And the beautiful thing about this?
It never changes.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.Hebrews 13:8, NLT
When you grasp and internalize this, it infuses new meaning into everything that you do.
Whether you succeed or fail, you are still and adopted, chosen, loved, forgiven son of God.
Don’t misunderstand this though.
It doesn’t grant you magical powers, or a guarantee of success.
It won’t magically heal your marriage or relationship with your kids (though it can…)
It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever fail.
But those failures (and successes) aren’t what defines you. They aren’t what gives you your identity.
You have to make this the foundation of your life.
This is the knowledge that will not only save your life, but when you live like you’re loved by God, it can fix your relationships as well.
You don’t have to look to your wife for your identity (that’s too much pressure on her, she has her own identity to worry about).
You don’t have to point to your job, income or accomplishments for your identity (which you can lose at any time).
You don’t have to show everyone your impressive physique to validate your worth (time will eventually rob you of that).
You don’t to pressure your children to achieve the things you never did to prove that you’re worthy (that’s even worse than putting it all on your wife).
The list goes on and on.
Living this way is the only way you can be free.
It’s also the only way you can begin to have honest relationships with everyone else in your life (to the extent possible!)
Where do we go from here?
While this is the most important concept to grasp, it’s also the mot difficult.
It’s not tangible in the same way other aspects of your life are.
So you have to keep yourself constantly reminded of this.
Prayer and Scripture.
Read your Bible and talk to God.
Here’s a short prayer you can use when you can’t think of something else:
God, thank you for loving and accepting me. Thank you for remaining faithful even when I am not. I’m grateful that I can always turn to you for my identity, no matter what the world tells me. Help me to never forget that I am your son, forgiven and redeemed. Amen.
Here are a few more passages of Scripture you can check out for more on your identity in and relationship with Christ:
- 2 Corinthains 5:17
- John 1:12
- Romans 8:1
- 1 Peter 2:9
- Galatians 4:7
How does this make you feel? Confused? Encouraged? Something else?
Let me know in the comments.