More than any other time, I am hearing people say phrases like “I need to find myself again,” or “I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore.” Some are changing ZIP codes, switching careers, ending marriages and relationships in a pursuit to “find themselves” and where they fit in this world. Perhaps one of the reasons people feel loss around their identity is that the places that contributed to our sense of identity were taken from us during the pandemic.
Some identify with their career. “I am a lawyer.” “I am in sales.” “I manage a team.” And the office was an identifying marker of the career, a place one could go to feel he or she belonged and had purpose. During the pandemic many offices were closed and some are not reopening. Some grab their identity from their friends at happy hour or buddies on the college campus. Whose we are often defines who we are. During the pandemic school was online and happy hours were disrupted. Some identified with their activity and community surrounding the activity—lifting weights, bowling, basketball twice a week, etc. All of these were interrupted.
During the pandemic the places we would go to give us a sense of who we are were taken from us. And many people were rattled to the core.
In Old Testament times, the Jewish people would journey three times a year to the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was part of their heritage, identity and community. Going to the temple helped them remember who they were and how they fit in this world.
Easter reminded us of incredible news. Jesus, when he announced his upcoming resurrection, referred to himself as the temple: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (John 2:19). As Jesus was overthrowing tables in the temple, he was establishing himself as the new temple, a better temple. A temple that could not be ruined or taken away because he (the true temple) would rise from the dead.
Unlike the gym, the office, the bar or the campus, Jesus never closes. Because he will never be taken from us, our identity is secure in him. Jesus is more than a place. He is a person who gives us joy and meaning. C.S. Lewis wrote:
“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for him. … Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.”
Because places were taken away from us, many of us are searching for ourselves again. May we look for him, the One who will never be taken away from us. The One who offers a much better identity than all the places in this world.