In the show “Hannah Montana” Miley Cyrus played a young girl who had “the best of both worlds”. She was a normal kid by day and a superstar by night. Each episode revolved around Miley’s constant struggle to keep her secret double life under wraps. After four seasons the series wrapped up with Miley finally finding peace as she revealed to the world who she really was. In the end she no longer had the daunting task of “keeping up an appearance” and bearing the burden of trying to be someone other than her true self.
People project a certain image of themselves for many reasons. A person may want to showcase certain qualities they possess for a job interview by projecting an image of confidence and professionalism. So they may carefully choose what they will wear in order to best communicate those characteristics that they want the employer to notice. Unfortunately, there are those who project a false image of themselves in order to gain something they desire. A person may project an image of trustworthiness and sincerity in order to gain the confidence of another, only to use that trust later to harm the individual. The horrific testimony of those victimized by Jerry Sandusky are an example of how he projected this type of false image throughout his life while in reality he was found guilty of committing the most evil crimes. While Jerry Sandusky is an extreme example of hidden secrets and leading a double life, there are some of us who regularly project an image that may be something other than the “real” us.
Many times we exert so much enery trying to project an image to the people around us because we fear that if they knew who we really were they would judge us, ridicule us or reject us. Although our motive for projecting a certain image may not be driven by selfish desires, those driven by fear and insecurity are no less damaging.
I clearly remember a time in my life when I lived my own double life. I had two sets of “friends”, two different physical appearances, two very different attitudes that drove two very different behaviors. There was a certain image I projected to my parents, employer and certain friends in school and a completely opposite image I projected to my other set of so-called “friends”. It was an exhaustive juggling act attempting to ensure the lines didn’t get crossed and I ended up exposed. Trying to keep my darker side secret was more than I could handle. What I allowed people to see on the outside – the image that I was happy, had it all together – was in complete opposition to what was really happening on the inside of me that was visible to no one. I was lost, full of shame and regret, and completely falling apart. I worked very hard keeping that part of me sealed away from the outside world.
But God saw the very part of me that I thought was hidden from view from everyone. When I reached my lowest point God revealed Himself to me when I turned to Him in desperation. And through the overwhelming love I felt from Him through my prayers of hopelessness and through believers who reached out to me, I was able to bring into the light my darkest places. I repented of the things I had been doing and experienced the freedom from the burden of having to keep such destructive secrets and behaviors in the dark. And what I thought would happen when I imagined being exposed was nowhere nearly as bad as my worst imagination. While there were those who did turn away from me, it was for my best that they were no longer part of my life. Those who really cared for me were overwhelmingly supportive.
I began to spend time working on a new image – an image in Christ. Through discipleship with strong, Godly women, reading my bible and prayers of newfound hope, I began to understand my true identity, my identity in Christ. The more time I spent in His presence the more my life was transformed into His image. I began to believe who He says I am in His word and not who others said I was or how I saw myself. I no longer had the desires to do the things I once had. My desire was to do the things that would be pleasing in His sight. I no longer was insecure about who I was, I gained confidence in who I am in Christ. I no longer feared someone finding out about the real me, I rejoiced in the fact that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by my Father in Heaven (Psalm 139:14). I was no longer bound by guilt, shame and regret. I was captured by freedom, victory and His unconditional love for me.
In Christ I am fully redeemed and I am the righteousness of Christ. But I still live in a sin-filled world and although my soul (my mind, will and emotions) desires to do what is right, it doesn’t have the ability to do so (Romans 7:18). So, my journey is not over and I am still daily seeking God’s presence until the time when both my soul and my spirit are aligned. It’s not until I stand in His presence in heaven and out of the presence of sin on earth that I will be fully glorified (Romans 8:18, 1Cor. 15:53). But until that time I have the assurance of who I am in Christ. I know that as a believer, if I am projecting any image other than that of Christ then I’m projecting a false image. My identity in Christ is the only legitimate image I was created to project. Anything else is an illegitimate, false persona that He never intended for me.
Are you struggling to find your identity? Have you allowed others to tell you who you are? As a believer, have you lost sight of the promises of God that say you are forgiven, blessed, a new creation set free from the bondage of sin, accepted and redeemed. Or are you someone who has never known that it was even possible to be forgiven and set free from the shame and guilt of the darkest areas of your life? It is possible for those who believe in Jesus, who died for your sins so that you could have a new identity in Him. If you’re in an identity crisis in your life, seek God and surrender your life to Him. He will give you a new life and a new identity, one set free from the weight of trying to be something other than who He created you to be. No matter who you might think you are, you are loved and chosen by God and your true identity is in Him.