Ever since coming of age, I have struggled with my identity. “Who am I?” was a question for which I longed to have an answer, and I searched high and low in attempted discovery. I tried to piece “me” together by my performance, my appearance, my friendships… but these efforts left me more puzzled. I pressed on and attempted to receive affirmation through the accolades and opinions of others, from society’s definition of manhood to the thoughts and feelings of my closest loved ones. I allowed these strivings and voices to become a mixed up montage of me, and I wound up feeling empty and inadequate.
I was introduced to the saving grace of Jesus in my teenage years and was awed by this Savior who loved me for exactly me, no strings attached. I gave my life to Christ as a young man and have watched with gratitude over the years as he has truly given me new life. He began to melt away this skewed image of who I was and replace it with inklings of his definition. I started to open my ears to his voice and hear about the man he created me to be.
Yet for over a decade I’ve still felt torn, stuck halfway between believing God’s view of me and continuing to try and fit myself into the world’s mold. This divided heart led me to maintain a largely secret faith, professing my allegiance with Christ in church circles but maintaining mostly mum about my beliefs outside of my safe zone in fear of what others would think.
During a Missions Month sermon at Grace I felt God reach into me and begin to turn the stubborn gears of my heart. I was so wrapped up in what the world might think of me that I was ashamed to live out a public faith in Christ. My identity felt torn because I was trying to live out my true self as an already adequate child of God, while continuing to strive to be the man the world would accept, even exalt. I felt God’s call to publicly declare my faith and break the chains of this divided devotion once and for all.
For King and Country has a song called “Burn the Ships” that aptly illustrates this turning point in my spiritual journey:
“ ‘So long’ to shame…
…face the fear, feel the weight disappear.
We’re coming clean, we’re born again,
our hopeful lungs can breathe again.
Oh, we can breathe again.”
Since I made the commitment to be baptized, publicly coming clean as a new creation in Christ, God has revealed to me the peace of finding my identity in Christ alone. My weary soul search has come to an end, and my lungs fill with breath anew. “Who am I?” Jesus says I am loved, I am his, I am worth enough to him that he would give his life for me. I long to listen to no other voice!
So here I am, saying “so long” to shame and declaring that I believe this Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. I believe he is the Savior of all, and the Savior of me. And by his grace alone I will take every breath of this life unashamed to fix my eyes on him.
— Ricky Paynter, Being Baptized April 2019
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