Struggling with our religious identity
Identity issues play a major role in the well-being of the human person and there are many measures to measure and ascertain our identities. Religion is one of the special means to define the identity of a person. This usually plays out when we are responding to interviewers or filling forms that request for our biodata and other basic information about us. There is no doubt that many today are struggling with their overall identity and specifically the religious component. Christians usually assert their religious identity through their faith in God, names, lifestyles and fulfilment of meaning and purpose in life, etc.
Someone once said that the struggles with our religious identities are interrelated with our struggles with God. We wrestle with God as we reflect conflicts between us and God. Ordinarily, our Christian spiritual traditions teach us that God is love (1John 4:7-8), and He is almighty and compassionate. But intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts could lead us to begin to argue and question God. It happened to Jesus Christ on the Cross and in His anguish He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Our struggles with God most times borders on our image of God. This is further informed by many unconscious fears of God. Fear of God that He is not understanding and compassionate as we are. Fear of God that He does not have a big heart to tolerate our sinfulness and He does not give us a second chance. There is the anger against God that He created us in a certain way but wants us to live in another way. There is the wrestling with God in prayers. We lament as we pray and work hard through daily devotions and pieties, vigils, novenas, and other spiritual practices but with little or no response from God.
From the experiences of the saints and mystics, as we mature in the spiritual life, our struggles with God heightens. We see it more in the areas of prayer and the will of God. The classical mystics speak of “being bold with God”, an expression that explains the fact that at some moment in our lives and relationship with God, we begin to boldly question God and His will. Old friends do take the risk to confront themselves and still live on. That is also true in our relationship with God. This struggle is sometimes unconscious and lifelong. The danger is that, most often this wrestle may possibly endure to the point that the soul will grow weak and becomes flesh itself.
In other to forfend against the dangers of dragging our religious identities to the mud and a troubling end, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, reminds us of His mission. And His mission is our own too. Therefore, there is a call for us to align ourselves with His unselfish mission. A mission that defines His identity. He says “‘The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord’” (Luke 4:18-19).
What is the state of my religious identity?
What spirituality am I promoting in our times?