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Have you ever been annoyed that the price of the item you want to purchase isn’t rounded to the nearest $5 or $10?
Yeah, I’m that guy.
So, with that awkward insight into my psyche, I have to admit that ending this series on Part 9 annoys the junk out of me.
Perhaps you guys can email me at least one more “Biggest Parenting Challenge You Will Ever Face” so we can round this series out at 10 episodes. Or maybe you’ll send 6 more, and we can have 15 parts.
Or, perhaps, you can simply ignore my ridiculous OCD, and we can all move on with our lives.
But one thing that we all really need to take seriously is the fact that it’s so incredibly easy for you to invite me to your church, school, counseling center, or ministry in order to speak on a wide variety of topics including (but not limited to) marriage, parenting, sexuality, worship, discipleship, ministering to at-risk children, serving broken families, and many more.
We host training workshops, family conferences, parenting classes, and couples retreats, but we also compliment whatever event you’re already organizing.
If you’d be interested in talking about how I may be a helpful addition to your event, or you’d like to build an event around one of the Truth.Love.Parent. topics, please visit AMBrewster.com to learn more.
And, since AMBrewster.com is comfortably nestled in-between the pages of TruthLoveParent.com, you can easily navigate over to our blog, Taking Back the Family, to access today’s free episode notes and transcript as well as all the other episodes in this series.
And — speaking of the other episodes in this series — I can imagine that some of you have only just found this podcast or blog because you were searching the internet for content about children and identity . . . which means that you potentially haven’t heard the previous eight episodes.
Well, here’s the problem with that.
Many times when I’m writing a series I like to work through parenting issues from the fruit issue to the deeper root issue, but for this series I’ve approached it very differently. Episode number 1 is one of the seminal issues that gives rise to all of the other parenting challenges we’ve discussed so far.
So, if you haven’t listened to this entire series, please stop this episode and start with episode number 414. And be aware that this 9-part series has been interrupted by various interviews with podcasters and authors. Feel free to listen to those great interviews, but realize that they do not directly tie to the series.
Alright, for all of you returning with us today, let’s talk about children and identity challenges.
According to Psychology Today, “Identity encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self. This amalgamation creates a steady sense of who one is over time, even as new facets are developed and incorporated into one's identity.”
They go on to say that, “Identity includes the many relationships people cultivate, such as their identity as a child, friend, partner, and parent. It involves external characteristics over which a person has little or no control, such as height, race, or socioeconomic class. Identity also encompasses political opinions, moral attitudes, and religious beliefs, all of which guide the choices one makes on a daily basis.
“People who are overly concerned with the impression they make, or who feel a core aspect of themselves, such as gender or sexuality, is not being expressed, can struggle acutely with their identity. Reflecting on the discrepancy between who one is and who one wants to be can be a powerful catalyst for change.”
When asked “What defines identity?” the author responds “Identity encompasses the values people hold, which dictate the choices they make.”
And they tackle the question “How is identity formed?” by suggesting “Identity formation involves three key tasks: Discovering and developing one’s potential, choosing one’s purpose in life, and finding opportunities to exercise that potential and purpose. Identity is also influenced by parents and peers during childhood and experimentation in adolescence.”
The article then went on to discuss many facets of this subject including living authentically and theories of identity.
I cannot agree with much the article said because the author missed key elements of our anthropology, but I really like their definition of identity as well as the three key tasks of forming an identity.
Allow me to recapitulate their points.
The author says that, “Identity encompasses the values people hold, which dictate the choices they make.”
We could say that identity encompasses what people believe which dictates the choices they make. And that is a reality Truth.Love.Parent. has been teaching since the very beginning. You do what you do and say what you say and feel what you feel because you want what you want, and you want what you want because you believe what you believe.
For more information about this reality, I want to point you toward our series called The Merest Christianity. In that series we answer the question why you and your kids do what you do. I believe it’s one of the most seminal concepts human beings must understand. There is never going to be genuine change if we do not understand how and why people do what they do.
I’ve included a link to that series in the description of today’s episode, but if your podcast player doesn’t support those links, it’s super easy to head over to TruthLoveParent.com and search “Merest Christianity.”
So, yes, when it comes to your kids, your children’s identity will perfectly align with their beliefs about themselves, the world, God, and everything else.
Now, let’s consider Psychology Today’s claim concerning how identify is formed.
The author posited that that we form our identities by "discovering and developing [our] potential, choosing [our] purpose in life, and finding opportunities to exercise that potential and purpose.”
Again, I would agree with that observation. In fact, if you’re paying close attention, then you recognize that what the article just suggested is what I’ve been teaching since the first episode in this series.
In fact, today’s discussion isn’t really about the 9th parenting challenge. Today we’ve actually brought our study full-circle. The challenge of identity is actually the first and greatest challenge every human being will experience, and — therefore — the greatest parenting challenge every parent will experience.
And — as we unpack this — if you’ve been following this series closely, you’ll realize that I’ve been leaving bread crumbs and dropping hints at this all over the place.
Yes, I’ve been claiming that security is the root challenge all parents will face with their children. But . . . I’ve also repeatedly illustrated that there’s one important step that comes before our attempt to gain security.
Allow me to quote from our first episode. Do you remember when I said, “Yes, it’s true that the most seminal part of who you are is what you believe. But what you believe about security is going to motivate absolutely everything else you do.”
I also said, “We can know that every single person in your family regardless of their age is surrounded by physical and spiritual danger and/or discomfort. And each of them makes thousands of decisions throughout the course of his or her day to sidestep that danger and discomfort. And each of those decisions is motivated by a longing for security amidst the danger and discomfort.
“No one makes the decision they believe will result in more danger and discomfort and dissatisfaction. We all do what we believe will provide us the most security . . . .
“So, how does one choose . . . ? How can we know for sure what the safest and most secure and most satisfying choice is . . . ?
“And this is where the Merest Christianity comes in. What do you believe?
“You would think that we could approach this scientifically. We have all the information and life experiences we need to say that B+C=Dissatisfaction and Q+R=Satisfaction, but it doesn’t matter what we know our experiences tell us. It’s all about what we believe.”
And then — as part of the introduction to the episode’s last point, “How can we have victory over this parenting challenge — I said, “Every day the single biggest parenting challenge you are going to face is that your kids are — right now — being tempted to choose the wrong satisfaction. They’re believing the lie that security is going to come in ways you know are dangerous. Right now your kids are believing the lie that safety is found in all the wrong pursuits.”
Why did I take the time to work back through all of that? Here’s why: if my identity is the accumulation of my beliefs, then how I define myself sets the trajectory for where I will pursue my safety and satisfaction.
Allow me to illustrate this way. If I believe that I am a woman, then I have decided that my satisfaction can only be found in seeking sex-reassignment, which — by the way — is impossible. You can change the outside, but you can never reassign a person’s sex. It’s in there very DNA.
But the point is that what I choose to believe about myself is going to determine how I approach the topic of satisfaction which will determine how I use my technology which will result in my feelings of autonomy which will make me believe I can throw off my authority which will give me the permission to define my own morality which will always involve redefining sexuality and family and which will result in creating and feeding my addictions.
So, though the pursuit of security is at the root of the other seven parenting challenges, identity is the root of them all.
So, with the remainder of our time, I want to look more in-depth at how our kids form their identities and thereby learn how we can help our kids glorify God with their identity.
We’re going to step through Psychology Today’s three key steps to identify formation and compare it with what we see in God’s Word.
1. Our children must discover and develop their potential.
Your children were born into this world with amazing potential. Genesis 1:26 tells us that we all were created in God’s image.
One of the most popular passages concerning children is Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
This whole passages assumes that our kids are packed with potential such that they are compared to weapons and parents are blessed to have them in their lives.
And, of course, we know that when we depend on God and His strength, we can move mountains and win victories we could never accomplish on our own.
And it’s every parent’s responsibility to help their child understand their God-given potential. And we really have to start with God. It’s destructive to ground your child’s potential in themselves.
“You’re so smart, if you just realize your potential, there’s no end to what you can do.”
That’s what we say to idolaters in training. “You have everything in you to be the best you you can be. You don’t need anyone else. You’re filled with potential.”
On the other hand, we must take our kids to the Scriptures so they can learn about the amazing things they can accomplish in the name of the Lord.
Hebrews 11 presents a concise list of just some of the spiritual and physical triumphs God’s people have experienced when they relied on God’s empowerment.
For example, there was nothing Sarah could do to have a baby. There was nothing Abraham could do to bring his son back to life. There was nothing Daniel could do to overcome the lions. But our potential in Christ when we trust Him is as limitless as God’s will for our lives.
This is why we must help our kids discover and develop that potential.
Their natural instinct will be to see the source of their potential as themselves and to develop whatever they believe it may be. But when we introduce them to the reality that their potential doesn’t lie in themselves — its source is God — they’re going to need a lot of help developing that.
Remember, they’re born into this world as unsaved idolaters. All they know how to do is worship self. After they have put their trust in God and been born again, learning to sacrifice their satisfaction to God instead of self is a life-long pursuit. And they’re going to need your help every step of the way.
We all need to help our children — as early as possible — discover that their true and noblest and most authentic identity is in Christ. And then we have to help them develop that spiritual maturity as they age.
2. Our children must choose their life purpose.
Now, at first you make not like the way this one sounds. You may rightly argue that God is the one Who chooses our purpose.
And I agree with you.
Psalm 139:13 tells us that God wove us together in our mother’s wombs. And three verses later David explains that God didn’t just knit us together and walk away; He has a plan. “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
We are not an accident, but we’re also not blank slates upon which the world must paint so that we can discover who we really are. We don’t need to backpack through Europe or experience various facets of existence to “find ourselves.” The all-knowing sovereign God of the universe created us for a purpose — specifically that we would know Him and glorify Him and enjoy Him for all eternity.
And what about I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
We have a very clear purpose!
But even though everything I just said is true, it’s also true that your kids must choose.
In Joshua 24:15 Joshua confronts the people with this challenge, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
It’s accurate to say that neither you nor your children have the right to invent your life’s purpose, but God does give us the free will to reject the purpose He’s already created for us.
Our ability to reject God is what gives us Romans 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.”
They identified as worshippers of man and birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. And that set the trajectory of their lives.
They chose, and your kids will have too as well.
Your kids aren’t robots. That means that your children will either continue rejecting or start embracing God’s purpose for their lives.
However, children are not consciously aware of the fact that they have a purpose and must choose to embrace it. All babies know is that they’re either currently satisfied or dissatisfied. They don’t have a functioning belief system concerning who God is, who they are, and what all of that means for them.
This is why we parents must start as early as possible helping our kids understand their life purpose — understand who God created them to be.
Without this information, all they know is that they’re searching for satisfaction, but they don’t realize that their Creator has a plan for that satisfaction.
When we don’t expose our kids to the reality of their creation, we’re leaving them in a deserted wasteland of searching for answers they can never find on their own.
That’s why Psychology Today and the majority of the word’s population (including professing Christians) believes that we’re on this lifelong journey to find our purpose . . . or worse yet, invent, imagine, or otherwise determine our purpose.
“But, Aaron, can’t I just let me child experience the world and find God’s purpose on their own? Doesn’t the Bible say that God can be seen in the creation?”
Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God, but without the special revelation of God’s Word, they will never be able to have a personal relationship with the God the heavens introduce.
They would never discover what I Peter 2:9 tells us, “But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
So, either you’re going to have to introduce them to Him through the pages of the Scripture, or you’re going to have to hope that someone else will.
But no loving parent would ever do that.
“Sorry, kids, I know you need food, but I’m going to trust that someone else will give it to you today.”
No, loving parents provide for their children’s physical and spiritual health. That requires that we introduce our kids not only to God’s potential in their lives, but also God’s purpose for their lives.
I have a link in the description of today’s episode called “God's Will for Your Child." That will take you to a series I did a while back about helping your kids discover God’s will for their lives. It’s an absolutely necessary thing for all parents to do throughout their child’s life if we’re going to assist our kids to glorify God with the massively important understanding of their identity.
And, by the way, I shouldn’t have to say this, but no one’s most noble and authentic identity is ever going to include that which the Lord hates. Our identities — what we believe and subsequently do — must conform to God’s character.
So, yes, our kids must understand their potential in Christ as well as their purpose in Christ.
And . . .
3. Our children must find opportunities to exercise that potential and purpose.
Practice makes progress. If we want our children to identify in Christ-honoring ways, then they need to daily find opportunities to exercise their God-given potential to fulfill their God-given purpose.
And what does it look like to exercise that potential and purpose? Well, it looks like choosing to be satisfied in Christ instead of satisfied in self. It looks like using their technologies to pursue that which glorifies God. It looks like understanding that they are anything but autonomous.
Allow me to park on this one for a moment. If my potential can only be fulfilled through Christ, and my purpose is only found in God’s will for my life, then I am anything but autonomous. I am wholly and completely dependent on God for my potential and purpose.
That means that exercising my potential and purpose will also look like me submitting to the authorities in my life who are leading me to fulfill my God-given potential and purpose. It will also look like me allowing God to define what’s moral and embracing His view of sexuality and family.
And therefore my identity — what I believe (which always requires behavior that supports it) — will align perfectly with God’s whole purpose for creating me.
That’s why Paul could confidently say in Galatians 2:19, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Because of his identity in Christ, his whole life would need to be lived differently.
But . . . if your child doesn’t believe that their potential and purpose are found in God, if they identify themselves outside of God’s will for their lives, they will always choose to find their potential and purpose in self, and they will walk the destructive journey of self-satisfaction.
Who are your kids? Why did God give them to you? What’s their purpose? How should they identify? It’s your job to help your children know, understand, and believe that their identity will only ever be found in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, I will share with you some of my identity.
Part of my identity involves the things about me that God created and which I cannot change. I identity as a man. And though my skin color is not important to me at all, it is a reality that I’m Caucasian; I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I also identify as my chronological age which — at the time of this recording — is 40 years old. I’m also Micah and Ivy’s father. These are all physical realities that I cannot change no matter what I think, say, or how I try to cover up any of it.
And, yes, there are people who try to re-identify their sex, nationality, age, and parentage. But that is not God’s will for our lives.
Your children too have physical realities over which they have no control. Their nationality, sex, blood-type, and age are examples.
But there are many more things over which we do have a level of control. Therefore, I also identify as a Christian, I’m heterosexual, I identify as Johanna’s husband, and I identify as a conservative.
I could choose to sin by rejecting God’s existence or control over my life, I could choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, but that’s not God’s will for my life, and because I identify as a follow of Christ, those things will never be acceptable.
Your children too have the choice to obey God or disobey Him. And every choice they make will boil down to obedience to God or disobedience.
I really hope this series has better prepared you to address the biggest parenting challenges you are definitely going to face.
If it has, I want to invite you to leave us a 5-star rating on iTunes and/or Facebook.
And please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so other Christian parents can be equipped to help their kids overcome the biggest challenges they will ever face.
And — as always — you can contact us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com for personalized help for your marriage and parenting. You can also call us at (828) 423-0894.
I hope you’ll join us next time as we open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, I’ll be starting a four-part conversation with Nathan and Anna Sutherland from the Gospel Tech podcast to introduce you to some amazing resources that will help you know whether your family is using tech to God’s honor and glory or consuming it for your own pleasure.
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