I’ve been struggling with what I can only describe as “an identity crisis” for a while now. Mainly with my ethnicity, and life in general since I have this fear of being forgotten. I tend to get slightly depressed around my birthday because I start to think about the year passing without me doing anything in particular with my life. So lately I’ve been asking God to let me know what he has called me to do but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to know what it is, and I don’t know what to do anymore.
My friend, let me tell you one really important thing –
You’re totally NOT alone in this.
Everyone in the world in all of history including yours truly has felt this way. And it’s okay. The world puts a lot of pressure on you to figure out what to do with your life, with all kinds of performance standards and achievement records and a neurotic paranoia of productivity. That’s why we have American Idol and athletic steroids and Viagra and cooking shows where they yell death threats at each other.
Let’s take the focus off what has already gone and passed. If you’re moping every year at your birthday, then further moping about your moping isn’t working. Looking at what “could have been” is not going to help you today. No more self-punishing critical spirals of shame, all right? We’re done with that.
Let’s also just for a second take the focus off your ethnicity. I totally understand racial anxiety, and as a second-generation Korean, I know the weirdness of finding a “cultural home.” The fear is that ethnicity will somehow hurt your chances in life. But for the eternal purposes of God in you, the whole race-issue can ultimately work for you and not against you.
If your race makes you feel “forever lost,” consider that this still can’t stop you from God’s work. Even against all odds, MLK Jr. brought about a major revolution, and Hudson Taylor, the whitest of white men, brought the Gospel to China. Do you know how many of my friends and my fellow Christians get hung up on my race? Zero. So I don’t, either. The racial divide won’t matter where your life matters.
As for your fear of being “forgotten,” we might want to define what it means to be “remembered.” Is it important for you to be famous? A household name? Popular and well-liked and applauded?
There are nameless people outside our history books who have sacrificed themselves in heroic grandeur, completely hated by society at that time in their lives — and they have an infinite, intrinsic value apart from the world’s eyes. God knows the name of every unmarked grave. So this will really depend on whose opinion you care about. Whether or not you think so, God’s opinion matters most: and He totally loves you, from eternity past to eternity forever.
Dear friend: if you really want to find purpose today, just find a need and do something. Pick up a hammer and help build a house. Serve at the homeless shelter, volunteer at a hospital or nursing home, serve at your local church, try anything.
Try the stuff no one wants to do. Get to that daycare ministry in your church; that campus ministry at your college; that food-packing assembly for the neighborhood. Get your hands dirty.
I know you have a lot of questions about your place in the world, but while you’re waiting, jump on a pre-existing track and start serving. You will find certain buttons pushed in your heart and lights flipping on, and you’ll be part of what God is already doing in the world. Then you can more specifically engage with what God has called you to do. That in itself will also be a fluid journey, but just dive in.
The thing is, if I pushed you into the middle of a warzone with a rifle and a box of bullets and an instruction manual, you’d jump to action. You won’t have much time to complain, and while your self-doubt is a legitimate feeling, at some point you want to look up and see what’s ahead.
The world is a spiritual battlefield that needs you, and God is ready to put your specific skills into use. If it takes time to figure that out, that’s fine. Everyone blooms at a different speed, and if you need to follow a soldier or observe what he does, go for it. Learn, try, fail, learn, try, try again.
God sent His Son for you to have a new life that glorifies Him, and God also wired you for a specific purpose on earth. God wants to flex Himself in you. Start that by starting anywhere. I’m still discovering what God wants to do through me, and that’s a crazy journey full of doubts, confusion, and questions — but it has been a thrilling adventurous journey full of God’s miraculous glory. Skip the fear and don’t let it become an excuse. Grab hold: move forward.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:10