The agency I work with, Naked Truth Recovery, does an entire eight-week series on the theme of "Why Does it Hurt So Bad." So all that to say, it's hard to explore the whole breadth of this idea in one blog post. However, I believe that one of the key reasons sexual betrayal (particularly repeated betrayal where there's addiction) eviscerates us is because of its impact on our identity. Here are some thoughts I've gathered on this (for a talk I'll be giving at a youth camp next month).
We could see our identity as being comprised of three main parts: our value/worth as a person, our special qualities and characteristics, and our calling/destiny. The ancient Jewish people saw "naming" as something meant to encapsulate these three things. In God's Panoply, Anne Hamilton makes the argument, based on the Hebrew translation of Genesis 1:30-31 and rabbinical tradition: "They [names] are the power to form identity; they are the power that calls upon us to enter our destiny and they are the power to breathe life itself into us."
In this post I'll focus pedominantly on God's intentions with regards to the "value" portion of our identity. However, I suspect that value, special qualities, calling... and even life itself are all intricately interwoven together.
God desires that we find our value in His unchanging truths. Those truths include he knows us (Jer 1:5), he delights in us (Zeph. 3:17), he loves us (John 3:16), he has called us and claimed us (Isaiah 43:1) and we have "sonship" in his family (Romans 8:14-17).
His plan was that key people around us would also know us, love us and confirm our identity. This is particularly true of the really important people in our lives like parents (Isaiah 49:15) and our spouse (Eph 5:25). Being known, loved and affirmed builds our sense of value. The key people in our lives are to name us and call us good things.
God also wants us to work to stand in our godly identity and live it out as destiny – In her book Known: How Believing Who God Says You Are Changes Everything, Aubrey Sampson writes:
God has named you. You are fully known, exquisitely loved, and securely held in his arms. He has given you names out of who you are now and for who you are in the process of becoming. But God doesn't bring you into this knowledge for knowledge's sake alone or even for your personal transformation alone. He doesn't just give you all the information about your identity, doesn't just tell you all the truths about yourself so you can sit there quietly and stare out at the water. We are named to go and live out our names. We are called to live as "sent ones" on God's mission into the world.
What Satan wants
Satan wants us to base our identity on what we do/have done, what we look like, how we rank/compare to others, and whether or not others approve of us. In other words, he wants it based on things that change, so we regularly doubt our value.
He also wants to have us “be known” (or so we think) by people around us, and then be belittled and devalued. It's particularly useful to him when the most important people around us participate in this. He also enjoys getting the culture as a whole involved. He then wants to see us believe and live out the bad things people have said (directly or indirectly) to us or about us.
Finally, he wants to cast doubts on our relationship to God. Remember Satan testing Jesus in the wilderness, "IF you are the son of God..."(Matt. 4: 1-11)? His tricks don't change over time. If we aren't God's child, then maybe we don’t have value, unique characteristics or a calling/destiny. That's what Satan wants us to believe and live out.
That's what we need to fight against.
This post will continue next week with how God and Satan both want to use sexuality to shape our identity.