True Identity

Kent Ernsting

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What have I been designed to do? What is my identity?

Perhaps the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life indicates that incredible numbers of people are searching for the answers to those same questions. Every man battles with these same issues every day.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says ‘Identity is Destiny.’

Who we think we are determines who we become, our dreams for the future and how we go about making those dreams become a reality.

As young boys we are told to, ‘Be a man’ or ‘Act like men.’ But how does our culture define masculinity? Movies, media and athletes practically shout their answers to the question. Is the ultimate man John Wayne, solitary and heroic, who is never intimately connected to anyone? Or perhaps it is a James Bond kind of guy smart, suave and debonair. He has a bunch of one-night stands. The message is that sex, without connectivity, validates maturation and masculinity. Or perhaps it is a sports hero with glorified images of power and strength and athletic ability? Or perhaps manhood is all about money and power. Success is measured by net worth and your value as a man is based on the size of your bank account, your house, the car you drive, or the prestige of your job title.

These are all examples of false masculinity. There is no relational piece to it at all. Where does that whole setup leave us? Isolated and alone. Hiding who and what you really are. If you’re hiding your true identity then you can’t connect with anyone else.

These images of masculinity promise satisfaction but always disappoint. There’s a huge bait and switch going on here.

John 10:10 identifies who is behind the spirit of the age and points to the One who has the solution to this dilemma. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

If men are to discover and live out their calling as men then we must uncover and embrace our God given identity. At the core of the crisis that men face is that we lose touch with our true identity. We lose the fascination with the story God wants to tell through our lives. The enemy of our soul is so enraged with the image of God that is reflected in you that he will hurl his mightiest weapons right at your soul. The thief is attempting to steal, kill, and destroy your identity, who God says you really are as a man. If he succeeds then he will render you spiritually impotent. He will kill your heart by watering down your true identity and slowly seducing you into living for a small god with shallow dreams.

With our identity stolen, we numb ourselves to escape this false identity by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or working too much. We struggle with pornography or creating fantasies or becoming workaholics. Men are bored.

What is our true identity? Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What did God have in mind when he created man? In the ancient near East the kings had a special advisor. The role of this advisor was to remind the king of his plans and to keep him on course. It is from the name of this adviser that we get our word ‘man.’ The Hebrew meaning of the word ‘man’ is ‘the remembering one who takes action.’ Men express God’s movement and action. Men ask, ‘Am I dangerous?’

God created men to uniquely move into chaos and mystery and have a vision for what it could be and create it. As men we can move into the uncertainty of circumstances that we don’t understand and cannot predict. We can move into the uncertainty of how people will respond to us. And having a vision for what our wives and children can become as image bearers we move into changing our generation. We move into leaving a legacy by embracing who we are and whose we are. We are faced with a choice today. Embrace your true identity or run from it.

Avoiding Concealment: Living Your Days as an Open Book

Kent Ernsting

Steve got caught. He and Amy were married several years when she found porn images popping up on their home computer that he thought he’d deleted. He told her that it must have come in attached to an e-mail or something. A couple of weeks later she caught him looking at Internet porn when she normally was asleep. She was devastated, especially that he had concealed this from her and that he had deceived her.

Steve learned the hard way that keeping certain things concealed, like his struggle with sexually compulsive behavior, led to real problems. He found out that in darkness his compulsive and addictive behaviors grew and multiplied, a bit like mushrooms grow in a dark environment. Steve began to do the right thing. He took responsibility for his behavior and admitted that what he was doing was wrong. He changed his behavior and recommitted to Amy. Both Steve and Amy wanted the same thing, the restoration of their relationship. Both wanted the restoration of trust, reparation of the breech that had formed a wedge in their marriage. But how could he restore his relationship to Amy?

Steve took stock of what happened between them. The dishonesty that he had spoken to her had promoted distrust. He held on to secrets that had created an emotional and spiritual gulf between them. His secrets had led to him feeling guilty and ashamed about his behavior. He felt bad about himself and became afraid that if she knew what he had done then she would reject him. The lies and the deception were harder for her to take than his behavior and she began to doubt other areas where she had normally trusted him. She began to ask him lots of questions and whenever he was late she asked him where he had been and what he had been doing. Steve realized that he had to live his life in an open manner.

He began to recover from his compulsive behavior when he talked about it with other men who understood what he was going through. He attended a weekly group with other men who were recovering from compulsive and addictive behavior. From them he learned that he wasn’t the only one who struggled with lust and found out that it reduced his shame when he talked with them. He started to meet with an accountability partner who encouraged him with words like, ‘Good job, thanks for telling me about the struggle you’re having.’ He also found that his emerging spirituality helped him to resist cravings that he had previously struggled to overcome. He asked God to search his heart and know him and show him anything that was preventing him from living in the light.

He began to feel better about himself and he was able to lie down to sleep knowing that he had lived in integrity that day. Steve also found it helpful to meet monthly with his spiritual mentor who encouraged openness in their relationship with one another. Steve found that in order for Amy to trust him he had to tell her the truth, even when it hurt to be honest. One day she asked him if he had deposited a check into their account that he had said that he would do. He knew that she would be disappointed with him when he admitted that he hadn’t gotten to the bank that day. But he also knew that if he concealed that fact in order to avoid her temporary displeasure, he risked a much greater loss when she eventually saw the bank statement and realized that he had lied to her. He knew that he had to be open with her about the little things as well as the big things.

Steve found that he had been hiding more than just his behavior from Amy. He had been hiding his true feelings from her as well. As a result, she really didn’t know a whole lot about him. He decided not to conceal his core from her, he decided not to pretend, and he disclosed more of his true self to her. The irony of it was that when he dropped his mask and let her in, she responded well and began to accept him as he was, even with his blemishes. She loved him for who he was and they began to experience true intimacy. He found that honesty and mutual acceptance became the foundation of the intimacy they had longed to have with each other.

For help, please see Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, take the next step–healing for your marriage–by attending the New Life Weekend.

Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle

Kent Ernsting

I was smitten from my first sight of him. The first time I held my newborn son in my hands the tears began to well up in my eyes. A deep sense of love enveloped me when I looked into his amazing eyes. I loved that little guy with everything within me. I thanked God for him and I pledged him back to God from that moment. I was struck with the tremendous stewardship responsibility that I now had, to raise him to become a godly young man. I knew that I could not complete that task without God’s help and the help of many others along the way.

Now he’s 14 years old, stands 5’8′ tall, and he’s strong enough to fold me into a pretzel. He routinely aces me on the tennis court. He’s a fullback on his freshman soccer team and he feels responsible for every ball that an opponent gets past him and into the net. He’s smart and brave and he wants to show others that he has what it takes to be a man. I will probably not know if I have successfully completed my task of parenting him until he is in his thirties. The indicator will be whether or not he is living a God -honoring life and rearing godly children.

I don’t know about you, but the challenge of shepherding my son through his young adult years with purity as the goal has been a daunting one for me. How can I talk to him about purity when my own sexuality has been complicated? I have had to deal with my own issues on the subject. We all know intuitively that we need to be the one talking to our kids about sex, but how do we do it?

I am an imperfect parent, but I want to pass along some tips and strategies that I have learned from others and have used with my son.

The first is the principle that RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST. As long as I keep the relationship that I have with my son strong, then he will be willing to receive guidance and coaching from me. As Josh McDowell says, RULES WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP LEADS TO REBELLION.

I look for ways to spend time with him. Relationship growth occurs when we do things together like going to his games, working together on projects, playing pool with him, and taking him camping with me. It helps me to relate to my son and for my son to relate to me. Relationships are what life is all about.

I want him to know deeply and intimately how to connect with another person in a life-long committed relationship. I want him to experience it first in our father/son relationship. Eventually he will transfer that into a relationship with his wife.

Sex education is really not so much a matter of providing information as it is a matter of deliberate character formation. The first messages are the most potent; it is far more powerful to form a child’s view of sexuality from scratch than it is to correct the distortions the child will pick up in the world. This is a concept that I picked up from a very helpful book by Stanton and Brenna Jones, entitled How & When to Tell Your Kids About Sex. In fact, it was their book that gave me what I needed to know and say to my son when we had our first ‘key talk’ in a local restaurant. After I finished my explanation he asked, ‘Dad, do you eat that green stuff?’ as he pointed to the parsley on my plate.

I took my son camping for a weekend before he entered junior high school. Together we listened to the ‘Preparing for Adolescence’ tapes by James Dobson and we talked about the content of the tapes. Between disc golf and fishing we discussed what would be happening to him in the coming years.

We spent a weekend at a sexual abstinence until marriage conference interacting with various speakers, presentations and youth events. We went to a Promise Keeper rally for youth where the message o purity was presented through music, worship, extreme sports, speakers, and multimedia.

I take him to church regularly and help him plug in with youth groups and their events. Now he is attending Young Life where the message of purity will be reinforced. I want him to know about redemption when he stumbles and about the love of his creator sustaining him throughout his life.

Look for opportunities that will challenge both you and your son such as rock climbing, rappelling, or canoeing. Bathe your son and his future wife in prayer. Let’s talk about how it turns out when our sons are in their thirties.

Please see Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.