God created us to be social beings. His plan, from day one, was for us to live in meaningful community with one another. Our relationships are so important to God that He positioned the command for us to love one another as second only to the call to love Him (Matthew 23:37-39). Those relationships must be a very high priority as we make our daily decisions.
Yet, in our sin, many of us look to other people to do the one thing they were never designed to do – give us identity. If we’re parents, we tend to try to get our identity from our children. We begin to live vicariously through them, as if their successes are our successes. And when we need the success of our children in order to feel good about ourselves, we’ll do anything possible to make them succeed.
We tell ourselves that it’s for them, but in reality, it’s for us. We become smothering, domineering, success-obsessed parents. But we’re blind to it, because we’re always able to say that it’s good for them. If anything, their success is a hymn of praise to another Father who provided everything they need to be where they are and to do what they’re doing. As parents, we’re never more than instruments in His redemptive hands.
Perhaps your marriage is the place where you seek identity. You live for the next shot of acceptance and appreciation, and the love of your spouse is the thing that makes you feel most alive. You’ll feel alive when they notice your efforts and seek your company, but your joy will come crashing down when you feel ignored or taken for granted.
This is all very dangerous. No sinner can ever be your rock and fortress. No sinner can give you a consistent reason for hope. Sooner or later, everyone around you will fail you. But there’s an even greater danger here.
As you look to this person for identity, you’re not really loving them – you’re loving you. You’ve turned the second great commandment on its ear. Instead of serving people because you love them, you’re willing to serve them so that they’ll love you. This kind of parasitic relationships is never healthy.
Our children were never given to us to be trophies on the mantel of our identity. Our spouses were never given to us to be personal messiahs. No relationship should be the source of our identity, because we look to people to give us what only God could give. We ask our relationships to provide us life, contentment, happiness, and joy, but sooner or later, like anything other than the Creator, they’ll fail us.
Process and Reflect
1. Are you asking flawed people to provide for you what only the Creator can provide?
2. How might some of your expectations for your relationships be unrealistic and unbiblical?
3. How does identity in Christ allow you to combat the temptation of finding identity in your relationships?
-Paul David Tripp