When our identity and self-worth becomes entangled in how we wish others to view us, we eventually hide behind a curtain woven from the fabric of anxiety and fear.
Case in point: The story of Saul found in 1 Samuel 9 and the following chapters. It’s important to realise that there were cracks in Saul’s armour long before Israel made him king. The Bible clearly states that he was the son of a prominent man in his community (1 Samuel 9:1). Yet, when Samuel anointed him to be the future king, Saul referred to his lineage disparagingly. 1 Samuel 9:24 “ “Am I not a Benjaminite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?”
Even after his confirmation and anointing by Samuel, Saul still had severe issues with insecurity and identity.
1 Samuel 10:21-24 -Therefore, they inquired further of the Lord: “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord said, “Behold, he is hiding himself among the baggage.” So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”
As the age of the judges drew to a close, Israel was looking for a king. Perhaps they were looking for someone to whom they could pass the buck when they reaped the consequences of their foolish decisions. Maybe they were longing for the good old days when Moses would mediate on their behalf. Whatever the case may be, the children of Israel made it loud and clear to God that they wanted a king.
Deep inside, Saul felt like an imposter and hid on the day the official lot was cast. (1 Samuel 10:23) As the tall, handsome man was pulled out from under the luggage and presented to the people, they hailed their quivering, terrified king.
Even though Saul led highly successful campaigns against Israel’s enemies, his insecurities plagued him throughout his reign. Was he afraid of being exposed as just a farm boy who somehow stumbled onto the throne? Was the king’s identity wrapped up in the praises of the people? I don’t know for sure, but given some of his choices, I suspect both. If Saul had discovered the heart of God, he would have never felt the need to prove himself to anyone.
Although David and Jonathan did their best to ensure that Saul received the accolades for the battles they won while under his command, Saul became increasingly resentful. When the people sang of David’s accomplishments, Saul’s response exposed his woundedness. A secure leader rejoices when those they mentored do well.
Saul’s compulsion to curry the affections of the people of Israel led to his downfall and the destruction of his entire lineage. (I Samuel 15:17; 26)
Many Christians won’t accept their position as the son or daughter of God. As a result, everything they do comes from their desperation to gain God’s approval and recognition from those around them.
Here are a few traits I have noted in people who suffer from this lack of identity. In random order:
- If they see someone else receive favour, they imitate what that person is doing. When they don’t get the same recognition, they become bitter and discouraged.
- They have a history of leaving churches or workplaces because they feel their gifts are not recognised.
- When they enter a new environment, they are swift to talk about their accomplishments or giftings. They manage to slip into introductory conversations that they are a prophet, healer, artist, writer, evangelist, or whatever happens to be a role or title that is highly respected in that new setting.
- They find their identity in a title or position rather than their relationship with God. They exaggerate their sphere of influence.
- They are unable to rejoice in the success of those they lead and are suspicious of the motivations of those who serve under them.
- They feel stuck in their ministry or vocation. God, in His mercy, will not allow His children to base their self-identity and sense of worth on what they do alone. Glory stories from days long gone by fill their testimonies.
- Even if they know little about a subject, they are quick to offer unsolicited advice when leaders are present.
- They live in a state of constant anxiety. People sense that anxiety and step back. This leads to feelings of rejection. “Don’t they know how gifted I am?”
David grew up in similar circumstances as Saul. He truly was the least son of the least tribe. He worked the fields, and was assigned to shepherding in the far pastures. Unlike Saul, however, David pursued the heart of God. Long before he killed Goliath, David was firmly grounded in his identity. Although he reigned with confidence, he did not reign with arrogance.
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Until Next Week,
©2021 Katherine Walden
Photo credit: Wizard of Oz (1939) MGM Studios