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Senior Kennedy Coopwood raises her hands in praise during worship at City Church in Bloomington.

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Developing Identity in Christ: Losing Yourself in the Process

Matthew 16:24 — Jesus said to His disciples, “Whomever wants to be my disciple must first deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”

When coming to college you have this idea that you are going to be so independent but the reality is you have to be very much dependent on God.

It’s too easy.

It’s incredibly easy to go with the flow, dance to whatever beat is playing and never think about any aspect of tomorrow while in a moment of comfort and excitement. It’s so easy to participate in the norm and be immersed with the crowd around you because after all, let’s face it, standing out requires more work. And who wants to do work socially when you already have work to do academically? No one. That’s why being a Christian is hard for most of us in school. Not only is doing work socially a challenge but doing work spiritually is a lot harder, requires the most work and produces the most challenges you could ever face.

But nothing ever comes easy right? The bigger the destiny, the greater the enemies. The most rewarding things in history have come with sacrifices, trials and discomfort. In order to get to a level of complete comfortability, you must first be comfortable with the uncomfortable. When you give your life to something bigger than yourself, naturally it yields experiences and situations you aren’t accustomed to. Luckily, there is a God who not only brings you to it but gets you through it. The sad thing is, we don’t find it worth it. We are impatient, we are selfish and we don’t want to listen to anyone but ourselves.

I began my college career on the search for who God was for myself. Not for my parents, not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to know God personally. I was always in church when I was under my parents’ roof but even that wasn’t enough for me because I felt myself just going through the motions. I claimed to know God but didn’t know God. I was lying. I also found myself trying to dictate what God was doing in my life. I wanted my life to be touched in specific ways, at specific times. I soon learned that that’s not how God operates and I had to learn to be humble. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.” As my pastor, Pastor David Norris at City Church in Bloomington, says, pride makes excuses, humility makes adjustments. This was the first step I had to take in developing my identity in Christ.

Finding that Identity was a challenge. I didn’t know it until after I developed an Identity in Christ that that was what I was in desperate need of. I had to let God abide in me and govern what it was He wanted to do. They say the main reason why people don’t follow Jesus is because they don’t want to give up the power they have on their own life (or the power they think they have). Letting go of the wheel and allowing God to take over lifted burdens, eased my worry and furthermore, allowed me to trust Him completely. I had to understand that God wants what’s best for us. Every trial or issue I face is getting me a step closer to God’s ultimate plan for my life.

Aside from giving God my heart and being humble in his presence, I had to allow him to provide me with the connections here on Earth that would encourage me, hold me accountable and comfort me when I need it. A friend of mine from church, Greg Lamonte, says that

“Your friends are like elevators. Either they bring you up or pull you down.” I encourage all to get acquainted with others whom they can confide in and be cheered on, especially in times of doubt and struggle. Brittany Davis was this person for me. Her journey was a bit similar to mine:

“If it wasn’t for my Identity in Christ, I think I would very much be going with the status quo. Finding my identity has been taking on more of a Kingdom lifestyle and less of a lifestyle of the world. Through my identity in Christ, I am able to thrive in college and not just survive — a lot of people just try to survive. People try to find identity in this world or in other people. Even in the Church we try to find identities in each other, but I think God is very personal and knowing that he gives us all our own identity is huge.

At first, my identity was my mom’s faith. In my church, I felt a lot of pressure to be a certain way. I found my identity really in just going through things and experiencing life, and in that I found that my mom’s faith was not enough. I had to develop my own relationship with God so I could go to Him for myself.

I encourage everyone: Recognize that trying to do life on your own is only going to get you so far. You will find yourself in a circle like a gerbil on a wheel that just keeps going. However, you have to decide if you want to be free and break patterns of bad choices. If you realize that doing it on your own isn’t going to get you where you want to be, then that’s the perfect opportunity to try God. He’s always the better option and His plans for us are always greater than what we can come up with.”

See, most of us like the idea of God changing circumstances than God actually changing them. A lot of people come to church for comfort but not for change. Romans 8:12-13 says ”Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” A lot of us have shrunk our lives down to our own personal interests and have formed a wedge between us and Christ’s rewards — which are far beyond what our carnal minds can imagine. The problem is that our default setting is fear. Fear is the enemy of vulnerability and of intimacy and that’s what it’s going to take to experience a close relationship with God. God will never give you a purpose that He won’t prepare you for.

Take a leap of Faith.

If you would like to talk to Kennedy, you can contact her by email at kenncoopwood@gmail.com