My nephew is one and a half.
He doesn’t say a lot yet – just a few random words, and only when he feels like it. (I already am a huge fan of his stubbornness. I hope he’ll grow up sticking to his guns.) Recently my sister has been teaching him different animal sounds.
She’ll say, “Noah, what does a puppy say?” and Noah will woof obediently. Or, “Noah, what does a lion say?” and Noah will roar. “Noah, what does a monkey say?” and Noah will twist his whole body, grinning, because he knows you’re about to tickle his underarms.
Noah, of course, is not a dog or a lion or a monkey. He’s a little boy. But there are moments where I wonder if he convinces himself he is a lion because he can roar.
In the same way I wonder if I can convince myself I am unworthy because of the things I have done.
If you asked me who I am, I would hand you a variety of answers. I’d say my name is Aliza Latta. I’m 23 years old. I’m a writer, I’m in school for journalism, and I’m an artist. I’m a poor college student who owes the government a lot of money, a daughter, a sister, an apprentice of Jesus, and Noah’s auntie.
There are so many things we could say about ourselves, but if they all got stripped away, what would we be left with?
If I got kicked out of school, would I still be considered a student?
If my fingers got chopped off and I couldn’t write or make art, would I still be considered a writer and an artist?
A friend of mine has had four miscarriages in the past two years. We were together the other day, talking about this. She looked at me and said, “Aliza, all of my babies have died. Am I still a mother?”
The past few months have shaken my identity all up. I woke up questioning who I was, mourning things that had happened, and wondering where I was supposed to go or how I was supposed to move on from the person I thought I once was.
Humans — I know — are constantly evolving, shaping and shifting and growing and molding into new, changed people. This is a wonderful gift. I am very glad I am not the same person I was six years ago or six months ago or six days ago. But it begs the question: If we are consistently changing, what is the basis of our identity?
I have placed my identity in school, in a relationship status, in success. I have placed it in my Instagram following and in my independence. Each of these places are like shifting sand beneath me: zero strength or security.
But Christ is teaching me a new way.
My nephew might think he’s a lion because he can roar. He can walk around the house roaring, and convince himself that’s who he is. But I look at him and I don’t see a lion. Instead I see the truth: my little baby nephew who is extraordinarily loved.
I can look at myself and see a girl who is full of shame. I can convince myself that this is who I am — someone shameful and guilty and gross. But God looks at me and doesn’t see a shame-filled girl. He sees the truth. He looks at me and sees someone who is worthy. Not shame-filled, but worthy.
I want to know who I am in my deepest core.
You could chop my fingers off and maybe I wouldn’t be able to write, and maybe I wouldn’t be able to create art, but I would still be worthy. That is my identity, because it’s who God says I am.
Each morning I read aloud spiritual truths of who God says I am. I am healing from wounds that are stitched deep inside of me, and learning who I am is like medicine for my soul. In the morning, this is what I say:
- I am a child of God.
- I am helped by God.
- I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved.
- I cannot be separated from the love of God.
- I am a member of Christ’s body.
- I am blameless and beyond reproach.
- I have been given great and precious promises by God.
- I am God’s workmanship. (I am enough.)
- I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength I need.
- I am tenderly loved by God.
- I am not condemned by God.
- I am Christ’s friend.
- I have the mind of Christ.
- The Holy Spirit lives inside of me.
- I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected.
I call this My Morning Manifesto.
I half read/half pray this over myself every single morning. The only way to combat lies is with the truth. Unworthiness, inadequacy, shame — those are lies, lies, lies.
Jesus said in John 8:32, “The truth will set you free.”
I’m on a hunt for truth this summer. I’m searching for who I am. And each morning as I read this out loud — despite sometimes having a hard time believing it — I am slowly unearthing my identity.