The Bible gives numerous stories of individuals and nations, who forget their identity, until God reminds them of who they are and leads them back to peace and prosperity.
I have always found the Bible to be a deep source of parenting guidance. God's active hand guides people in the Bible and these examples provide helpful techniques to share with my kids.
Sometimes kids try to be someone else – or act like someone else – in order to be accepted. Sometimes kids might hear other people telling them who they are or who they should be. But we can teach our kids to stand strong in their own identity.
The Bible gives numerous stories of individual people, and even nations, who forget their identity, only to be reminded of it after a hard or challenging experience. In fact, throughout their history, the Israelites faced this challenge – they forgot who they were, often until times got really bad. In each instance, God reminded them of who they were and led them back to peace and prosperity.
Below are three relevant Bible stories – one is of a man who learns more about his identity and how to trust God, one is about a young man who is tempted to fight God's battle by using tools that weren't meant for him, and the last is about a man who stands up to great temptation by remembering his unique identity.
Who Are We? God's Image, God's Reflection, God's Joy
The very first chapter of the Bible tells us who we are. The New International Version says,
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
Each of us is an individual created by God. But there's more to it than that. An "image" or, as some other translations say, a "likeness" can be a reference to what we see in a mirror. When you stand in front of a mirror, your image, your likeness, does what you do. So, an image or a likeness reflects whatever the original is doing.
If we are the image of God, then we reflect all that God is – all of God's attributes or qualities. This includes love, compassion, strength, forgiveness, honesty, innocence, meekness, integrity, and joy.
This also means that we are inseparable from God – an image can't be separated from the original. This is the lesson that the Bible teaches us over and over, and that the people described in the Bible learn again and again.
Moses Learns Who He Was
Having grown up in Pharaoh's palace, Moses fled to the wilderness to escape prosecution for having murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Although the Bible doesn't say it directly, it is very likely that Moses was completely aware of his identity as a Hebrew. He eventually ends up marrying and raising a family in Midian, where he becomes very prosperous.
However, one day when he is tending his sheep, he has an encounter with God. He sees a bush that is burning without being consumed. As Moses comes closer, God speaks to him out of the bush. God tells Moses that he will lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.
But Moses protests – a number of times! His first protest is most telling to me. According to the New Living Translation (NLT), he asks,
Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)
Who am I???? Well, you're the guy that God just picked to do important work. Do you doubt God? Do you doubt yourself? Here's how the whole conversation unfolded.
- Moses says that he can't do it; God responds that He will be with Moses.
- Moses says that he needs God's name; God gives Moses His name and reminds him that He is the God of his ancestors – of his family.
- Moses says that the people won't believe him when he says that God is going to lead them out of Egypt; God gives Moses two miraculous signs, turning a shepherd's staff into a snake and back again, and making Moses' hand leprous and then clean again. The staff was a symbol of authority and power, and with this demonstration God showed Moses that He was in control.
- Moses then claimed to not be a good public speaker; God then reminds Moses "Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?" (Ex 4:11, NLT)
On the surface, it appears that God is simply reminding Moses of His own power and greatness. But if we remember that we are each God's image, reminding Moses of God's power is a way of reminding Moses of his own spiritual strength.
This is great parenting! Lead the kids in a gentle, yet firm way to recognize their true identity and to deal with each of their concerns one at a time.
David Knew Who He Was
When David was young and insisted on confronting Goliath, King Saul offered David his armor and weapon. But David refused these tools. The NLT describes the scene this way.
Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. "I can't go in these," he protested to Saul. "I'm not used to them." So David took them off again. (I Samuel 17:38-39)
The lesson in this one little anecdote is tremendous – know who you are and only use the tools God has given you, not the tools God gave someone else.
Certainly Saul was trying to be helpful by giving David his armor. But David knew who he was and knew that these weapons weren't his – that's not who God made him to be. He would fulfill God's mission and purpose for him, but it would only be in the manner that God had chosen and using tools that God had given him.
Our children need to be told this every day – we are all different and beloved by God. He gives us each our own tools, and our task is to use them. Just as David knew who he was and knew what tools God had given him, our kids can know who they are and what tools they can use to defeat their troubles.
Jesus Stands for His Identity
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, just after John baptized him, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness praying and fasting. The devil or "tempter" came to Jesus and presented him with three separate propositions.
In each instance, Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting the Bible. Specifically, he quotes from the Torah or Laws of Moses. These are laws that were given to Moses directly from God, and Jesus uses them to refute and ultimately defeat the tempter.
Like David, Jesus knows who he is – God's beloved Son – and uses the tools he's been given by God to stand firm for his identity and defeat his enemy. Here's how the conversation unfolded. (The full story appears in Matthew 4:1-11. The following quotations are from the NLT version of Matthew.)
- The tempter asks Jesus to turn a rock into bread; Jesus responds by quoting Deut. 8:3, "People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."
- The tempter quotes Ps. 91:11-12 and suggests that Jesus jump from the highest point in Jerusalem to prove that God is with him and will protect him; Jesus responds by quoting Deut. 6:16, "You must not test the LORD your God."
- The tempter then offers Jesus earthly glory, power, and riches; Jesus famously responds, "Get out of here, Satan!" and quotes Deut. 6:13, "You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him."
In each instance, the tempter tries to get Jesus to do something that he doesn't want to do. And in each instance, Jesus responds with the tool he knows in order to stand firm for his identity.
I am learning that giving my kids a clear understanding and knowledge of who they are as God's image is one of the most important gifts I can give them as a parent. I've also found that reminding myself of my own identity helps in most circumstances! If our kids truly know who they are and stand firm for it, they will prosper.