In Scripture, we see that Satan goes after our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God and we need to reclaim it. Debbie Herback talks about the confusion many people experience in who they truly are and offers ways you can recover what has been lost.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”Matthew 3:17
1. When we lose sight of who God is, we lose sight of who we are. In the Garden of Eden, the evil one attacks Adam and Eve’s identity by making them question God’s love. Do you see God as a loving and faithful father, or as a demanding lawmaker? What lies do you believe about God? How does your understanding of God shape how you see yourself?
2. We, like Jesus, receive our identity as sons or daughters of God at our Baptism. It is given, not earned by our actions or found outside of Christ. Do you remember and live out of this identity or have you struggled to fully accept it? If not in the Lord, where else do you look to find your identity?
3. Our identity should be affirmed first by our own family. Do you feel as though your family, particularly your parents, did this well? In what ways did they succeed or fail in this? How do you think this experience shaped your understanding of your identity?
4. In the talk, Debbie Herback says that we can remember our identity by surrounding ourselves with people of faith and engaging in the traditions of the church to remember who we are. How do you remember your identity or what are some practices you’d like to begin to help you remember your identity?
Text: Becoming a Person of Love
Hi, my name is Debbie Herbeck. I’m a wife, a mother to four amazing children, and a grandmother to 11 children. I’m also the founder and executive director of a ministry called Be Love Revolution, and our aim is to help young women encounter the personal love of Jesus Christ and learn how to be God’s love in the world today. I’m delighted to be with you today, and the topic of our first talk is identity theft, reclaiming our true identity. Let’s begin now with a prayer.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of our identity. Thank you that you call us your beloved sons and daughters. Open our hearts, our minds, our ears today to hear the truth that we might walk in this beautiful reality. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Who Are You?
I remember growing up as an identical twin. One of the things my grandfather used to say to my sister, and I was, are you you or your sister? And I remember being very confused by this and not knowing how to answer. And it’s kind of funny looking back on it now, but I think it kind of hits at a fundamental reality that many of us experience in our life. I would tend to say all of us. And that’s a certain amount of confusion or misunderstanding about who we really are.
So today we want to talk about what our true identity is in Christ and what keeps us from really receiving and reclaiming that identity. I think that many of us have this underlying anxiety or relentless anguish to feel like that we’re not enough, that somehow, we’re falling short, and that everyone else around us has it all together. I know in my own life, personal examples and different seasons of life, growing up in a dysfunctional home and feeling like I had to do things on my own, that I had to prove or earn love and acceptance. And then I remember moving into that phase of teenage life where I felt like I was seeking approval and acceptance from the grades I got, from sports, from social scene, even from boys.
And then when I finally met Jesus in a very profound way when I was in college, I began to understand that the striving and this earning mentality was something that God wanted to take away from my life, and He wanted me to receive my identity as His beloved daughter. Now, this obviously is kind of a lifelong struggle, but I feel like I’ve learned to understand what it means to really receive that identity from the Lord and not to strive or to grasp after it.
Our Fundamental Identity
I think we need to remember and remind ourselves that Christianity isn’t just about a way to believe. It’s about who we are, and more importantly, whose we are. As our culture moves away from this ground of reality that says you can make it up as you go along, that there is no truth in the world, more than ever, we as Catholics, need to be firmly rooted in the truth of who God says we are. So first and foremost, and probably the most important thing I’m going to say here is that our fundamental identity is beloved sons and daughters of God. We are created in the image and likeness of God.
We are told in Genesis 1:27, so at the very beginning, we are told this is who we are. We’re created male and female. We are told in Genesis 2:14, we’re created distinct, made for communion and union with one another as male and female. And we are created in love for love by love Himself. First John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God.” And that is what we are.
So, our identity flows from this lavish love that the Lord has for us, that He pours out upon us as His sons and daughters of God. Even Jesus, fully human and fully God, needed to receive His identity from Christ, from the Father. And we see this at the Jordan in the scene of his baptism. As Jesus comes before John the Baptist and is baptized, from the heavens comes this voice of His heavenly Father saying, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” And Jesus receives this before he goes into his time of public ministry. This isn’t an affirmation of something Jesus has already done for the Father. It’s not something that he has proved or earned, but is something that is freely bestowed on him. And you’ll notice then where does Jesus go after he receives this identity? Before he begins this public ministry. He goes into the desert to pray.
An Attack On Identity
And in that time of temptation in the wilderness, the enemy comes, and the enemy tempts him. And the thing that falls under the greatest area of temptation or struggle is his identity. And the enemy, the devil, comes to him and says, “If you are the Son of God, do this.” If you are the Son of God, do this. And what comes under his attack, under attack, is his identity. Well, we too, like Jesus, receive our identity at our baptism, although many of us don’t remember when we were baptized as little infants, the reality, whether we experienced it or not, is that Jesus, that God came, the Father spoke over our lives and said to us, “This is my daughter, this is my son, whom I’m well pleased.” And like Jesus, we in the wilderness, which is sometimes the world, the world of our sin, the world of our struggle, the world of our imperfection, the place where the enemy wants to attack us the most, is in our own identity. And so just knowing this can help us be aware and on guard and know how to fight against this attack from the enemy.
Scripture is full of all the ways that God has revealed to us. It’s full of the revelation of the person of God. But it is also full of all the ways that God reveals to us through His own words, through His love, who we are to Him. When we forget who God is, the one who created us, we forget who we are. And so we need to begin with that fundamental principle, understanding and belief of who God is in order to receive and believe our identity from our creator. This is true of individuals, it’s true of cultures, it’s true of civilizations. And today, the source of confusion about identity, about gender, about sexuality, about what is marriage, what is love, what is morality, what is truth, flows from this inability to remember who God is and who God has told us we are. So, when we believe the truth about God’s character, we begin to understand and believe the truth about our own identity.
Identity Theft: An Age Old Problem
So, what is this identity theft? Well, there’s this age old problem, if we go back to the book of Genesis, that we see when this first all began, this age old lie from the very beginning, that God isn’t good, that God doesn’t have our best interest at heart, that God ultimately doesn’t really care about us. And because we buy into that lie and we believe that lie, we feel we need to care for ourselves. We need to create our own sense of happiness, our own sense of reality.
We need to self-protect. And so, from the very beginning in the garden, this is what Adam and Eve struggled with, and this is the same lie that each of us struggle with today. We have an enemy who hates God and who wants to destroy the image and likeness of God within each one of us. He doesn’t want us to be dependent, trusting, faith-filled children. He wants us to be fearful, anxious, self-reliant, grasping at happiness rather than receiving that from the Lord our God. So we can only live in the security of knowing who we are if we let the Lord himself tell us who we are.
I love this quote by Saint Therese of Lisieux. She says, “I need the divine glance of my savior.” I need to let Jesus look at me to tell me who I am. In an ideal world, we receive our identity not only from God, but our identity is affirmed by our families, by our parents, by those who are put in place to tell us who we are. But we all know that we live in a very imperfect world with imperfect families, with broken families. And so that message doesn’t often or always come through to us very loud and clear.
Allow Him To Restore Our Identity
Our deepest desire as humans is to be seen and known and loved. And so there are times when we run, like Adam and Eve, and we hide in shame and in fear from the one who can tell us who we are and what our true value and our true dignity is. When I look at myself, I don’t know about you, very often I only see my faults, my weaknesses, the places where I’ve sinned, where I’ve fallen short. But when God looks at us, when Jesus looks at us with that gaze of love and that gaze of hope, He doesn’t see any of that. He sees the ones that He loves. He sees a beloved daughter and a beloved son created in the image and likeness of God. And so Jesus’ glance, if we allow him to look at us, is one of love and one of hope.
And so we need to allow the Lord to renew, to heal, to restore our identity so that we can really know confidently and with great assurance, who we are, that we are a beloved son or a beloved daughter of God. How do we do this? I think there’s two fundamental ways. One is that we receive, and I believe this is one of the most difficult and challenging postures to have as humans, as human beings, but also as spiritual beings. But it is the most essential posture that we can have in this spiritual life.
I love the example of Mary, the mother of God, who received, she was the icon of receptivity, as she said, “Be it done unto me, Lord, according to thy word.” Not let me do it for you, but be it done according to me. And so we have to allow the Lord to give us and bestow on us this identity. It’s nothing we’re required to earn. It’s nothing we deserve. It’s something that is freely bestowed on us. So, learning to receive takes humility. It takes the smallness of a child and the willingness to let God give us what he knows is best for us. The second one that I think is very important is to remember. And throughout the scriptures, the Lord is always reminding us how important remembrance is, how important it is to remember who God is and what He has done for us, to recall to mind the promises of God, to claim those promises, to repeat and to recite those promises. We need to be around other people, other believers, other brothers and sisters, living with the life and the rhythm of the church together, that help remind us of God’s faithfulness, help remind us of who God is and who we are in Him.
So finally, as we close, I would just encourage you to let Him look at you. He wants to tell you you are precious in my eyes and I love you. You are honored. What matters in life most is not what we do, but who we are. So I challenge you to define yourself as someone who is loved by God, who is loved so much by God, with so much tenderness that He gave His life for you.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for this gift of son-ship and daughter-hood. We thank you that we don’t have to earn it or strive or grasp after it. Lord, we place ourselves before you, and we give you permission to glance at us, to look at us. We allow ourselves to be seen by you so we can hear those words that you spoke into our lives at baptism, that you spoke to your beloved son. This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased. Amen. Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
About Debbie Herbeck
Debbie Herbeck has shared with many her personal journey of faith from Judaism to Christianity and subsequent entrance into the Catholic Church. For the past forty years, Debbie Herbeck has worked extensively in youth and women’s ministry, speaking, leading mission trips,and mentoring high school and college age women. She is the founder and Executive Director Pine Hills Girls’ Camp. Debbie is the founder and Leader of the Be Love Revolution, a ministry that exists to help young women encounter Christ and be His love to all they meet. Debbie has written four books, and is a frequent author and speaker for Blessed is She and contributing writer for Undone: Freeing your Feminine Heart from the Knots of Fear and Shame.
Debbie and her husband Peter recently wrote a book together entitled: Lessons from the School of Love—Creating a Christ-Centered Marriage. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and have 4 young adult children and 11 small grandchildren.