Remember when Buzz first joins the group of toys in Andy's room? Andy tosses him on the bed and then runs out with his friends for cake…leaving the other toys to investigate. Woody is nervous. He wants to make sure that the new guy knows HE is the most important toy in Andy’s life. But when Woody staggers up on the bed, he finds Buzz acting out the actions of a toy he was created to be—a space ranger. But cut the poor toy some slack. After all, the moment Buzz opened his eyes...he looked like a space ranger, therefore he believed he WAS a space ranger. He did what any good space ranger would do--he jumped right into the role; looking for signs of intelligent life.
Have you ever felt that you had an identity that someone else gave you, but wasn’t really who you were?
As grown women, we are expected to do one of three things:
Marry, have children, become a soccer mom (or another kind of cookie-cutter mom), drive a vehicle with doors that open and close on their own, live in a nice house, attend PTA meetings, keep up appearances the best that we can, attend social events (like MOPS, which I do), make awesome brownies for school functions, live off coffee, hand-sew Halloween costumes, jump when our family tells us to jump, and desperately work hard to become the ideal woman/wife/mother.
Okay, maybe I over exaggerated.
If you don't like that one, try this one:
Graduate college with a stellar degree (nothing less than a Bachelor's, of course), marry a good-looking man who has an equally good job, live in a McMansion, drive a designer car, have children if you want, and learn to juggle it all while working those fashionable heels like a Victoria Secret model on a catwalk.
Did I exaggerate that one, too?
How about this one:
Live your life however you want. Nothing matters but you. You're a free spirit. You a are beautiful, unstoppable, and a force to be reckoned with.
Don't feel that you fall into any of those three categories? Me neither. I don't want a pre-cut identity the world has to offer. That's what happened to Buzz Lightyear. The world (or toymakers) made him a space ranger. Therefore, Buzz believed that's where his identity was. But it didn't work out for him, did it?
Watch this clip to refresh your memory on how things worked out for Buzz:
When Buzz realized he wasn’t really a ranger, his life came apart. He lost his identity. Who in the world was he, and what was he meant to do?
Sounds familiar? We can try to be who and what looks good to the world (and sometimes, to us), but it can't possibly be ALL that you are. If it is, you'll wake up like Buzz...dressed up for tea but feeling empty inside. Seriously. No joke.
Think of the movie The Incredibles. The whole family is meant to be something greater than ‘normal’. They have super powers that they cannot hide. Jack Jack certainly couldn’t hide who he was. Their identity was something more than the typical, every-day family, wasn’t it? But they still didn’t know how to be the heroes they had the powers to be. Remember how they get in trouble: getting sued, and constantly narrowly missing getting killed? Not to mention that the dad couldn’t even fit in his uniform at the beginning of the movie (I have jeans like that).
Even The Incredibles had to discover that super hero powers weren’t what made them who they truly were. They had to find a balance between their talent and ability, and the men, women, and children they were. But the process left them with plenty of bruises. It wasn’t easy.
Then there’s the movie Ratatouille where a Rat, of all things, dreams of being a chief. Kinda gross, huh? That’s what everyone else thought, too. But he didn’t want his identity to be a germ-toting, nasty rat. He wanted, and FELT, he was created to be something more…
Two people were struggling with their identity in this movie. The man was supposed to be a chief and he stunk at it. The rat wanted to be one, but it was a near impossibility. They had to team up to become what they both wanted to be.
Sometimes, we can’t discover our identity, or possess it, without a bit of help: i.e. teachers, mentors, supportive friends, our families/spouses, and church. Most importantly: GOD! Without those things, we don’t have the drive to pursue our true identity.
Identity is complex. Everything influences it (who and what we are). Our ethnic background, where we live, who raised us, our religion, our past pain...even our hopes and dreams affect our identity.
But what does God have to say about our identity?
Genesis chapter one makes it clear that we were created in GOD'S image. Wow! That's a little hard to believe, huh? But here it is:
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." ~Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
Jesus is our example:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" ~Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
In The Incredibles, the mom tells her daughter, Violet, that she must fight hard to protect her true identity, because it is the most valuable possession in the world. In our case, our true identity is our kinship with Jesus Christ and the very fact that we belong and were created by God the Father.
But 2 Corinthians 4:4 warns us that it will not be an easy task:
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
The world will try to blind us from the image of God—what’s that mean to us? If we don’t know what God looks like, and we are created in God’s image, then what? It is a pretty clever trick pulled off by the enemy, but I have an answer.
We discover God's character by fighting for it. We delve into scripture, we spend time in prayer, we violently storm the gates of heaven through our worship, pull heaven down with our prayers, and dive head first into a relationship with God the Father. It isn't easy, but we can do it.
When Jesus walked the earth, he was mocked and ridiculed. Even on his way to the cross, men spit on him, dressed him up like a king and laughed at him, pulled his beard, and drove a crown on thorns into his scalp. But before the cross, Jesus looked his mockers in the eye and declared, “I know where I came from and where I am going.” (John 8:14)
Christ's purpose was clear to Him. He knew his true identity: The Son of God. Because of that, His calling fell into place.
Buzz Lightyear may not have been a space ranger, but he did have a purpose and identity in this world. When he laid to rest what he thought he was supposed to be, and became who he truly was (a toy made for a boy’s pleasure) he was able to do much more than be a mere toy. He became the hero kind-of-guy that he thought he was to begin with. And, he learned to fly.
You can want to be a great many things in life, but without realizing that you are God’s child first, life is going to be rather empty for you. So dive in. Discover who you are in Christ.
Inspired by By Robert Velarde | Author of "The Wisdom of Pixar: An Animated Look at Virtue” | June 2010