Identity: How to Rediscover Yourself
I Am A Football Player
I am a football player. Having that identity growing up certainly didn’t work out very well for me when I blew out my knee my sophomore year in college. My life was a mess and disaster for a couple of years after I lost my identity as a football player. I had no idea who I was, what I stood for or who I wanted to be. I was lost, depressed and full of despair.
My whole life up to that point revolved around sports and especially football. I was Troy the star football player. I was validated for what I did on the football field. In high school I averaged over ten yards a carry. I played both ways. I played offense, defense and special teams with running my share of kick-offs and punts back for touchdowns. How easy it is to relive those glory days.
Life Can Change in Heartbeat
But life can change in a heartbeat. One second I am living out my dreams of playing college football pursuing my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL, the next second I am writhing on the ground in pain so immense my body did the only thing it new to do, it went into shock. That I am grateful for.
How fragile our identity can be when we rely on external sources to validate us.
I Am a Bodybuilder
I am a bodybuilder. After my devastating knee injury I didn’t know where to turn. I found myself alone and isolated no longer part of a team for the first time in my life. How many of you guys know how that feels? After we graduate from high school or college all of a sudden we are no longer part of a tribe any more. If you played sports and especially team sports you know that feeling of camaraderie and community. That feeling of going to battle together as warriors.
I found myself alone in the weight room trying to fix my knee that was now symbolized by scars, screws and staple marks. I went from my dream of playing in the NFL, to my hope of walking normally again. “Who am I?” was a question I repeatedly asked myself. What am I going to do now that I am no longer a football player?
Weight lifting was easy to fall into. I first discovered strength training when I was fourteen years old and wanted to get bigger, faster and stronger for football. I felt at home in the gym once I got over the intimidation factor of it all as a skinny pimply faced teenager.
Consumed by Bodybuilding
I eventually became consumed with bodybuilding. I would spend hours in the gym lifting weights. It’s amazing what we can do with our bodies when we set our mind to it. I will emphasize one thing here. I never did steroids or performance enhancing drugs. To me that just never made sense. That was a short cut. That was cheating. For me it was all about hard work and discipline with both my strength training and my nutrition.
In a weird kind of way I took it as a compliment that people thought I was on steroids. If I can look like I am on steroids and not actually be on steroids, I figured I must be doing something right.
I loved all of the attention my physique got me, especially from women. It was a great source of external validation. My identity was wrapped up in how I looked. My muscles were such a big part of who I was I couldn’t even imagine what my life would be like without bodybuilding as my identity.
For over forty years of my life my identity was both as a football player and then as a bodybuilder. I didn’t know anything else. I was Troy the football player then transitioned to Troy the bodybuilder. I guess I could have chosen worse identities, but neither of those identities helped me when I needed it most.
Of course there is nothing wrong with being a football player or a bodybuilder. To this day I still love to lift weights and consider myself a bodybuilder and an athlete. Herein lies the difference. I know longer identify myself as a bodybuilder. It’s just one of my passions. I have many passions in life, they just don’t define me anymore.
I Am a Jesus Follower
My one and only passion that I identify myself as is that of a Jesus follower. That’s it. My whole life was turned upside down when I went through a devastating divorce about ten years ago. It was something I didn’t think would ever happen to me in a million years. I had no idea where to turn or what to do. I was a lost soul desperately searching for help. I was so lost I cried myself to sleep every night for two years leading up to my divorce.
In my days of loneliness and despair I started reading the Bible. It really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time, but it gave me a feeling of hope. It gave me something different than bodybuilding did. It touched my soul. It went way deeper than any feeling I got in the gym, which was only a temporary fix anyways.
What is it for you? What is your identity wrapped up in? Does your soul feel empty like mine did for the vast majority of my life?
My life started to turn around as I discovered a new identity. When I discovered a new Troy. A new way of being. Just so you know, when we find our new identity in Christ, it doesn’t guarantee a life without problems and it’s not a magical shift the next day where everything turns out exactly how you want it. But what it does give us is hope. It gives us a life of infinite possibilities and eternal life.
Seven Ways I Rediscovered My Identity
There are seven things that I started to do in my life that helped me to rediscover who I really was in this world. This is how I turned my life around and found out what my true identity is. Here are the seven game changers for me and I believe when you immerse yourself in these experiences they have the potential to change your life as well. These are not check the box rules to follow. These worked for me. All of these things touch my soul. I do them because I love to do them. They are not done out of obligation. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and read the Bible, pray, journal and be in community with other godly men.
You have to find what works for you. These are merely suggestions. I would suggest you start with one or two. The bottom line is your identity and character should be transformed as we develop a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s what this is really all about. Until then you will be searching and searching and searching. My hope is that I can keep you from wandering in the wilderness for the forty plus years like I did. Does that sound familiar at all?
Cultivating a Personal Relationship with Jesus through Intimate Prayer
When I first learned that all God wants is to have a personal relationship with me and I could talk to God any time through prayer is when I started to crave my alone time with God. Church for me was always a check the box kind of experience. It wasn’t until I learned about what it meant to have a personal relationship with God that I could identify myself as a beloved son of God. When I started to see myself as the son of God is when I could truly start to love myself for who I am. Not for what people wanted me to be or thought I should be.
Galatians 3:26 is one of my favorite Bible verses that speaks to my heart. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s all we have to do is have faith. We don’t have to earn his love. We simply have to have faith. He wants us to talk to Him through prayer.
We have access to our loving God 24/7 365 days a year. When I started to realize that and open up my heart to Him is when my life started to transform. My life started to become more holy. It wasn’t about striving or perfectionism, it was about living with holy intent being in a loving relationship with God.
Reading the Bible
This is one of my favorite ways to start out my day. I usually get up between four and five in the morning because I love to start my day inspired by the Word of God. It fills me with hope, wisdom courage and strength. It’s not an obligation, it’s a privilege. If we are wanting to transform our lives, I don’t believe we can be who we are created to be without digging in to the Word of God. I want to challenge you to try it. Just start with ten minutes a day and see what happens.
Reading Spiritually Inspirational Books
I will never forget the first time I read the Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. I was completely blown away. It was so practical and inspirational. I think I have read it five times since my first exposure to it. I have discovered such amazing authors such as John Eldredge, Erwin McManus, Mark Batterson and Tony Evans to name a few. All of these authors have spoken to my soul in one way or another. Whenever I read Erwin McManus’ work such as The Way of the Warrior it makes me want to run through a brick wall for Jesus. I am inspired and encouraged because he speaks my language. Find an author who speaks to your soul and dedicate time every day to read their inspirational work.
Journaling my Thoughts, Prayers, Dreams, Hopes and Desires
My very first journal entry was on January 4th, 2013. Here is what I wrote: “God I want to live my life for you. Please show me what you want me to do. Help me to love you, love others, grow spiritually, serve and share the Good News. I want to live a passionate, joyous life. I have been journaling just about every day since.
I have filled out nine journals since that first date in 2013. It’s inspiring to go back and see where I was in my life when I first started on this journey and to see where I am today. I started keeping journals called Spiritual Warrior in Training. It’s all the things that I am learning through the Bible, books and my spiritual mentors. I am on my third volume.
It energizes and inspires me to go back and read all of the wisdom I have accumulated over the years. I want to encourage you to write a little bit every day. It doesn’t have to be much, even five minutes of journaling a day makes a big difference. There’s something about writing something down that makes a big difference. It gets deeper in our souls when we write it down and then we go live it.
Finding a Church I love and Making it a Priority to go Every Sunday
I have to admit this one has been a struggle for me. I grew up in the church, in fact my dad was a pastor and an amazing one at that. With no disrespect to my parents as I am grateful for my upbringing, church really wasn’t a great experience for me. I felt like it was about image and show. It didn’t feel very real. It didn’t feel very life changing.
That all changed when I started going to a non-denominational church in Orlando called C3 which stands for Connecting the Community to Christ. I call it a non-churchy church. In fact when I first started going we met in a movie theater. Now that’s my kind of church. The lead pastor, Byron Bledsoe was real and raw. He challenged me to be a better person. He told me that God loves me unconditionally, but that he also wants me to continually be transformed to be more like Christ.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to be part of a church. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to be part of a church family. When we rediscover ourselves and our identity we want to become part of a movement. We don’t want to be isolated any more. We want to be part of a church family and get involved. I loved my church so much I found myself leaving vacations early so I could get to the service and hear the rockin’ worship music, hear the powerful message and see my friends.
I want to encourage you to become part of a church you love and to become part of a church family. It will transform your life. Without that weekly support of other Christians it’s hard to do this journey on our own.
Surround Myself With Other Godly Men
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn shared this infamous quote with us saying, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” My life and identity started to change when I started spending time with other godly men. They spoke the words of truth into my life. They never judged me for my sins and brokenness, they just loved me for who I was. They encouraged me when I felt hopeless. They laughed and cried with me. Sometimes just putting their arm around me telling me that everything was going to be OK when all I saw was hopelessness and despair.
The sad fact is that most men don’t have any real man friends let alone godly man friends. Most men live in isolation with no one to share their deepest and darkest hurts and shame. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have three men in particular that came into my life just at the right time. I will forever be grateful for these men as they poured into me the love of Jesus without expecting anything in return. Now it’s my turn to create an environment where men can be vulnerable and be surrounded by other godly men through my men’s fitness ministry.
Pursue my Purpose in Life
Our identity isn’t in our work, but we are called as Jesus followers to live with purpose. Our main purpose here on earth is to love God and love others as we love ourselves. It’s to make a difference while we are here on earth. When we don’t know our purpose we are lost. We are not living our lives fully alive.
I am learning that our purpose is found in the desires of our heart. Our purpose is revealed to us when God makes it so clear to what our giftings are we know we have to go all in with our hearts and soul.
I shared earlier that one of my greatest passions is fitness. It always has been and always will be. And now to be a fitness minister integrating faith, fitness and community it truly makes me feel more alive than I have ever been. I have so much clarity and focus in my life right now, I wake up knowing each and every morning what my purpose is. I will be doing this work for the rest of my life with passion and perseverance, healing whoever I can along the way.
My encouragement to you is to follow your desires, because that is where your purpose is found. Be willing to take the road less traveled. Be willing to sacrifice worldly success for godly success. I guarantee you won’t look back. I have never looked back since leaving my six figure sales job to pursue my purpose in life.
Go and Live a Dangerous Life for the Glory of God
Men, we are all on a journey. We are all on a God adventure. The question is will you find your identity in Christ or some other man made idol? From my own personal experience until we find our identity in Christ our life will be nothing but a crazy roller coaster ride. I want to live a life of inner peace, freedom, joy, vitality and passion. When we find our identity in Christ and start to see ourselves the way God sees us is when we can rip the chains of slavery off ourselves and live the life God intended us to live. Go and live a dangerous life for the glory of God.
Troy Ismir, MS
Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Spiritual Warrior Coach