Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Finding Our Identity in Christ

My favorite Disney Movie is The Lion King. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” One of my favorite books is The Road, a story about a Father’s love for his son. I almost wrote my Theology Senior Thesis on divine sonship.

A reporter once asked Nicholas Ray, director of the 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause, “What is the goal of the main Character played by James Dean?” Ray answered, “To look for the father.”  I guess you can say that has been my goal, too.

My father working on his sailboat

The reason why I have always been obsessed with the father/son relationship is because I never knew this relationship for myself. My father passed away when I was 9 months old; before I had a chance to know him and be fathered by him.  I have an insatiable desire to know him. I am excited every time one of my relatives tells me stories of my dad or we find some item of his that I can have. As a kid, the first thing of his that I had was his dog tag from being in the Navy. I wore it every day until I lost it while camping one summer. Thanks to God through the intercession of St. Anthony my brother found it the next year when he went back to the same cabin. That summer, I was also away from home. I didn’t find out about my brother finding my dad's dog tag until I returned home. When my mom told me in the airport I was overwhelmed by emotion. I cannot remember a time previous to that when I was more joyful. I wore it on and off for a few years until some time in high school when I started wearing it every day and I haven’t taken it off since.
In high school, my mom found his high school ring. I started wearing it as my own. Unfortunately it was slightly to big so I stopped wearing it for fear it would fall off. The stone in the ring was also very scratched and faded from my dad working on his sailboat. We asked some jewelers if they could polish it but they said they could not and recommended replacing the stone. I refused because if we replace the stone it is no longer my dad’s ring. Recently my mom found a jeweler who would be willing to try to polish it. They were able to polish it so the stone once again shone. She sent it to me in the mail and I tore open the package like an 8 year old boy on Christmas morning. (I have yet to clean the remnants of the packaging that were tossed everywhere in my car.)
My father's High School Ring
That night I went to an Adoration and Praise and Worship service. My gaze and attention kept going back to the ring. Throughout my childhood and high school years, every story and every item of my father’s had meaning and allowed me to know more and more about who my father was. It was almost as if my dad was reaching back through time to reveal himself to me piece by piece. This time is different though. I feel like wearing his ring now for some reason has more significance than when I wore it in high school. I prayed about it and came across numerous references to the authority and meaning of one being given a ring.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son: when the son returns to his father he tells him that he has sinned and no longer deserves to be called his son. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” (Luke 15:22)

In Genesis, after Joseph had found favor with the Pharaoh he said, “’Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand...” (Genesis 41:41-42)

A ring carries authority and identity, either that of the wearer, their ‘King,’ or their family.  Along with the ring, the dog tags were worn as a form of identification. In my wearing of both the dog tag and the ring I want to be known as my father’s son. I love meeting distant relatives and being introduced as “Coit’s son.” But I also want to be known as a son of The Father, a child of God. I realized this is the reason why my father’s ring feels different on my finger now than five years ago.  Just like the stone, the heart of the ring, was faded, my identity as a son was just as faded. I did not have a clear understanding of who I was in relationship to my Father. But, now, I have learned more about my father here on earth, which has also let me to a deeper understanding of who I am in light of my Father in Heaven.

The journey to a deeper realization of sonship has taken place over the past four years. It started after I was in my first serious relationship. I realized that I needed to be a man if I wanted to be in a relationship with a woman. Without having a father to turn to I turned to The Father. I read scripture that spoke of our adoption as sons and read books like Wild at Heart, To Own a Dragon, etc. Through their testimonies and personal prayer I started to let God father me and make me into the man He is calling me to be.  
            For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:15-17

            There is a crisis in our culture. It is a crisis of a lack of true men. We have plenty of males in our society but few of them are willing to be Men. The ramifications of this crisis are extensive and its source is in the lack of fathers. In the last few decades, many boys have grown up and are growing up without a father; without a role model to show them how to be men, without a reference as to who they are.  Our culture tells them to remedy this by finding their identity in how many women they can sleep with, how good they can be at sports, how successful they can be in the business world, etc. Women suffer from many issues of identity as well due to the lack of fathers and from the lack of true men who did not grow up with fathers.

            The image of a true man is something that is widely discussed. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to what it means to be a true man. I read one article that painted a true man as the man who is always there for his family, always praying in Church. He is dependable, honest, loving and generous. There was an article written in response that painted the image of a true man as something slightly different. Everyone seems to have their own opinion of a true man. No matter what form that image takes there is a distinct foundation common to them all: A true man of God is disciplined and courageous, standing up for what he believes in and not willing to compromise his morals. He inspires greatness in all those who come in contact with him. Above all, a true man of God lives a life of humble sacrifice; submitting his will to the will of God and always ready to lay down his life for his family and friends in whatever form that may take. He knows who he is and is firm in his identity as a son of God. He is an image of the Heavenly Father to his children, a brother to his friends, and a pillar of strength to his wife. The only way for a man to attain this stature is to lose himself in Christ, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2Tim 1:7)

This is the man that I am striving to become. One that, thou he may sin, is always seeking the face of God. I invite you to join me in this journey. Whether you are a man or woman, we need to find our identity in God. We need to take ownership of our identities as sons and daughters of God. We are adopted into this family through the Holy Spirit. We receive this Spirit of adoption, not through a physical ring, but through a spiritual seal in Christ.  However, the Lord has given me a gift in this ring as a physical reminder of my adoption. Through this ring I realize that I am my father’s son and a son of the Father! As I wear it I have a tangible reminder that I am the legacy of my father here on earth and I receive an inheritance from my heavenly Father. I thank God for adopting me through His Son despite my sins and failings and I pray I may continue to be led into a deeper realization of who I am in light of this Truth.
I pray for you as you read this. That you may be guided into a further realization of your identity as a son/daughter of God through Christ. That you allow Him to love you and nurture you as a Father. And that this realization in your own life may overflow to those you minister to and come in contact with. Amen!


  1. pat-this is truly amazing. thanks for sharing.

  2. Patrick! I am so proud of you. Love love love all this content. I praise God for the work he has (and is) doing in you!!! (your cousin) Kristin