I have always been a people pleaser, as it’s just a part of my personality. I’ve always sought to please my parents especially, because deep down I don’t know a child who in one form or another does not want to at some point in their formative years. Well, couple these two tendencies with a wild lack of self-image and you have a definite problem. You have a child looking to find self-worth in the constant affirmation of his parents as he alone is not worthy enough (in the child’s eyes, at least).
My spiritual journey that has encompassed the last 5 1/2 years of my life has taught me many things and brought me over many hurdles. I’ve been taken to lows I could hardly wish on enemies and highs that resemble some drug-induced euphoria. Through it all, however, I came to see God as merely a Being to shepherd me through the hard times and keep me safe long enough to press on through the next mire of testing.
These paragraphs seem pretty unrelated, but what if you take the child’s lack of self-worth, compound that by a few years of elementary, middle and high school and then transfer that focus into the spiritual arena? It seems like I’ve taken a step forward, but now instead of getting some of my identity, I am constantly seeking affirmation to gain all my identity. In other words, we’re dealing with a much deeper form of identity. Yes, I try to please God in the constant trials He allows for me to face, so that maybe I’ll earn His favor eventually and at last be worthy to be called His.
Here is where Ephesians 3:11–12 comes in:
“This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”
Here, the theme of Ephesians is continued. God’s grace is constantly being poured out, but all we need to receive it is the faith which He gives us also (Romans 12:3)! Not only am I worthy to come, sniveling up to the throne of God, I am able (thanks to Jesus) to approach boldly and confidently. There is no room for either if I am trying to seek God’s favor. This must mean that because of Jesus, I already have His favor and that I am able to request God as if I were His son. My identity, therefore, must already be defined to God. In fact, this leads me to wonder if maybe my identity is in Him and I just have yet to realize that fact.
What Paul does next in this chapter is quite poignant in addressing the doubts of the Ephesian church. He wants to keep them from getting discouraged, but instead of exhorting them or lifting them up emotionally or physically, he prays for spiritual blessing. He takes what seemingly is in the physical realm and approaches it from the spiritual. He prays they will be strengthened by the God who gives all families in heaven and on earth their names (identity?!) (Ephesians 3:14–16). He prays that the Spirit would ingrain within their hearts the love of God that they would live out through faith (Ephesians 3:17). Finally, that they would be empowered to grasp the height, depth, length and breadth of that love that cannot be understood by human minds. This, he says, fills with “the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19).
I need to prove nothing to the God that has graciously given me my name and accepted me into His royal family. There, I am accepted and affirmed perfectly so as to be able to approach my heavenly Father with boldness and confidence. However, when there comes times that I feel discouraged and unworthy (which there have been and will continue to be), I merely need to look toward His love and understand that my identity and worth are rooted in it, which is higher, deeper, longer and wider than comprehension. It’s infinite.