“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:4-5 (NIV)
One of my favorite Christian rap songs is called, “Identity” by Lecrae and Da T.R.U.T.H. It’s a few years old, but the truth of the song is timeless. There is one line in particular that stands out. Right before the last chorus of the song, Lecrae says:
“Identity is found in the God we trust. Any other identity will self-destruct.”
Lately, this line has been an anthem in my life, as it seems that God is teaching me so much about the topic of identity.
Over the past few years I have found myself completely wrapped up in the world of youth ministry. Between leading my students and starting a website completely devoted to student ministry, being “Karli the Youth Pastor” 100% of the time quickly became an exhausting task.
I was always thinking about youth ministry.
I was always talking about youth ministry.
I was always reading about youth ministry.
I rarely seemed to be with anyone that didn’t have something to do with youth ministry.
I was missing actual church services to go and do work for our youth group.
My brain was an endless loop of anything that had to do with youth ministry.
Youth Pastor was no longer just my title, it was becoming who I was. My identity was completely tied to my work with students and it was a heavy weight upon my shoulders. I didn’t realize just how heavy until one night, I was invited to a Tuesday evening church service by a friend of mine. His church was hosting a revival and I said that I would try my best to attend.
While I was late to the service (due to being in a ministry meeting—go figure), I made it just in time to hear the speaker begin his sermon. To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from the message. I was sure it would be just another church service that I’d attend. However, my ears perked up when he began to talk about titles.
The speaker stated that we all get so wrapped up in what we do, and we begin to identify ourselves with that. We say, “I’m a police officer” or “I’m a teacher”. (In my case, “I’m a youth pastor.”) He went on to say that while yes, those things define what our job is and what God has called us to do, above all else, we must remember that we are children of God.
Immediately I was wrecked.
In that moment I felt as if God was reminding me that I could slow down, relax, and rest in Him. I was not “Karli the Youth Pastor”, I was “Karli the Child of God”. The latter title trumped the former. That simple fact seemed to lift that heavy weight off of my shoulders.
Friends, have you ever been there? At a place where you get so completely lost in what you do that it becomes who you are? This is a dangerous place to be, as we can easily forget where our identity belongs. Our identity must be found in God and God alone. When we begin to stray away from that fact, it can be extremely harmful. It can cause us to feel burnt out, tired, less than, and overworked. Take it from me, because that is exactly how I was feeling.
I praise God for leading me to that Tuesday night church service to hear a message I didn’t realize I needed. I’m certain that there’s a youth pastor right now who needs to hear that very same truth, as well.
Yes, you are the youth pastor.
But, but first and foremost, you are a beloved child of God.
My prayer is that we would all remember that on the days where it seems like we eat, sleep, and breathe ministry. That we would stop and realize that our identity is not at all in our job, but in the One who called us to it.