An enduring identity
A Christian Science perspective: The healing impact of identifying ourselves spiritually.
As a newlywed, I often stumbled when introducing myself – I had to think twice as my last name had changed! It felt odd to identify myself this new way. But over a few months, it became natural and easy.
Socially introducing ourselves may not be as smooth for everyone. Options abound when we introduce or identify ourselves to others – such as single, married, or other identifiers. But not everyone feels secure or satisfied with his or her identity. We may ask ourselves, “Where does my identity come from?”
A biblical scribe asked this identity-defining – yet rhetorical – question: “Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God?” (Malachi 2:10, New Living Translation).
This idea of God, as the creator of man (see Genesis 1:27), has given me valuable insight into how I identify my fellow man and myself. If our identity reflects God, who is Spirit (see John 4:24), then we all reflect His qualities – which, by their spiritual nature, are limitless.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, broadens our perception of identity as God’s spiritual idea with this definition of man in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “[Man] is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas; the generic term for all that reflects God’s image and likeness; the conscious identity of being as found in Science, in which man is the reflection of God, or Mind, and therefore is eternal; that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker” (p. 475).
A glimpse of God as the one creator, and man as His beloved idea, proved a healing insight for my friend Sharon, who at one time suffered from an identity crisis. Not knowing her birth parents or background as an adoptee, she felt she didn’t know who she was. The low self-esteem and lack of confidence that resulted from this feeling impacted her relationships at home and her productivity at work.
When her colleague saw Sharon’s distress, she began talking with her about a different way to view where she came from and who she was. As a Christian Scientist, the colleague shared how God was her one creator and that she was, thus, complete as His image; Sharon’s identity was as God’s spiritual reflection. The colleague also wanted to give Sharon a copy of Science and Health, which, together with the Bible, could help her understand this relationship better.
As my friend studied these two books, she learned how much God loved her and was a permanent presence she could trust in her life. The stress and negative feelings she had harbored for decades – borne of a need to have a society-defined identity – disappeared. And her relationships and productivity at work soared.
Understanding our identity as spiritual – focusing less on some aspect of our body or human heritage – enables us to discover our full potential. Fully realizing this spiritual nature does not result in any loss of identity but, in the words of Mrs. Eddy, “confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace” (Science and Health, p. 265). It goes to show that looking to our original source gives us true satisfaction in who we truly are.