Rhythm and Identity

If you haven’t done it in the last 7 days then it’s not who you are; it’s not your identity.

– Jeremy Pryor, Family Teams Workshop

There is a rhythm to life.

The tides come in and the tides go out. In much the same way, your life has ebbs and flows. It has comings and goings. It has times for work and times for rest.

God created the world to work in 7-day cycles. We covered a lot of that in the series we did on rest (which started with this post back in April).

Because of this, our lives work better when we follow a 7-day cycle as well. Who we are and what we do should fall into this 7-day cycle. When you go looking for your identity - for who you are and what’s important to you - look at what you did during the last 7 days.

Sometimes there is the odd thing thrown in there. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pops up, so you take it. You get sick and it throws off your whole week. For the most part though, we are creatures of divine habit and our identity, who we really are, can be found in the patterns we keep week to week.

Saying that, I think it’s important to also note that if you haven’t pursued something that you say you really want to do in the last 7 days then I think it’s safe to say that you don’t actually want that thing to be a part of your identity.

If you say you want to be a writer but you haven’t written in the past 7 days then you probably don’t really want to be a writer.

The same goes for 5-year-old Billy, who dreamed of being a firefighter. If Billy is now 28 and he still dreams of being a firefighter but in the last week hasn’t done some sort of firefighter training, taken a class on how to become a firefighter, or even talked to a firefighter, then being a firefighter is not who Billy is. It’s not part of his identity. It’s a dream. It’s a “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-be”.

And this is okay! Not everyone is meant to be a firefighter or a writer. Not everyone is meant to probe the depths of outer space or the depths of the drain under your sink.

What I think is important is that as individuals and as families, it’s up to us to define what we do want our identities to be and then to put effort towards those things on a consistent basis.

For example, I talked about Shabbat in last weeks post. We want, as part of the identity of our family, to all take a break from our busy schedules and, at least once a week, come together for a meal. A meal that’s a source of blessing, reflection, and that ushers in a time of rest for our family. We don’t have to all rest in the same way or even together (although we should make efforts to include each other), but for an hour or two once a week, we feel like part of the identity of our family should be a meal shared together.

This wasn’t the case 4 weeks ago. Meals together were desired, but we didn’t really put forth the effort to make them happen. However, once we decided that the Shabbat meal was going to be something that was a part of who we are as a family, we adjusted our schedules and figured out where to fit it in and are making it happen every week.

We defined what was important to us, what we wanted part of the identity of our family to be (we want to be a family that shares a meal together at least once a week), and then put effort behind making it happen.

You can do the same. Whether it’s for your personal life, your career, or the life of your family and loved ones, you have the power to define what your identity looks like.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a look at the last 7 days. What did you do? What kinds of things did you work on? Where did you go? Did you do those things and go those places in the weeks leading up to last week? When you find the common denominators, the things you do consistently week after week, then you’ve found your current identity.

Write that identity down. Take a look at it. How does it make you feel? Is there anything there that you regret? Are you humbled by how you’re currently living your life? Are there things you’d like to change?

This is your chance! Look at your current identity and then write down what you want your identity to be. Once you’ve done that, all that’s left is to put action behind the things that you want to become your identity and to stop putting effort into the things that you don’t.

You can define a new identity. As a Christian, I’d recommend sitting down and praying through this exercise before you start. Ask God what He would say about your identity and about who He wants you to become. He has the best plans for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says:

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ask God what He dreams for you to become and make those things a part of your identity.

It’s never too late to start over. It’s never to late to become the person that you’re meant to be. You get to define who you are and who you become.

Start today and your tomorrow can be completely different.