Identity and Mystery

Identity and Mystery

How often do we fight for an identity?

We read books, dress in certain ways, attend particular events, talk in certain ways, join groups, look for new jobs, pursue projects, hang around with a certain kind of people – in short we live everyday of our lives in certain kinds of ways because there is a certain person we want to be; there is a certain identity we want to have, and a certain identity we don’t want to have. We want to have a kind of ‘name’ – a name beyond our capacity to speak, beyond our language.

All of that is pretty evident and it is unavoidable. Paradoxically, we are not yet who we really are – and so we hunger and hunger until we can hunger no more. We have an uncontainable desire to be qualitatively different than we are now.

But, in our striving, sometimes we inadvertently take the reins. We can be fooled to live our lives aiming at sanctity as if it’s some possession to be had, as if it’s a problem to figure out. And, after a while of seeking in that way, we of course get burned out and so we settle for the spiritual plateau we land on, “I guess this is just what it is; this is a good as it gets before death.” That’s what happens when we try to attain our identity/sanctity (the same thing) by some technique, as if it was ours to earn, build or create.

In reality, our identity is found only in surrender, in a certain kind of ‘giving up’, a kind of quitting. Perhaps we seek in our identity something far greater than we can comprehend. Perhaps we are too big for ourselves. The brilliance of who we are is possibly too bright for our eyes to be able to handle. So all we are left is mystery. And the mysterious, by definition, is something we cannot take the reins on – we can’t hold it, we must be held.


Read the last few chapters of Job to see how God’s ‘answer’ to Job’s 30-plus chapters of questions doesn’t directly address a single one of Job’s questions. Or how Jesus almost always answers his questioners with questions. And yet, these Old and New Testament responses don’t really fall short at all – they are unbelievably satisfying. They touch our identity-ache in a way that no simple answer-given-in-response-to-question could.

It might be the same for us. Here and now, we know ourselves best not in answers, but in questions – when we remain a mystery to ourselves. We know ourselves best when we don’t really quite know who we are, only whose we are. Satisfying answers are only those that remain clothed in the purple robe of mystery. Honestly, think of your prayer times. Isn’t the most satisfying answer to the question that you have ever received to the question, “Who am I?” something like, “You are mine.” What does that really mean? I don’t know – but it’s all I need to hear.


This is all simply a manifesto to jump off the cliff of ‘what you know’ and into the inexpressibleness of God. You don’t know where He’s taking you? Good – keep diving. You don’t know why you suffer in the way you do? Be not afraid – keep diving. You feel like you are in over your head? Of course you are – keep surrendering. Does it feel like God is always two steps ahead of you? Go past the point of the spirituality that lives in a nice tidy box. Let yourself be tugged into the restless storm of love in which you can barely see a thing, which is not under your control, but which is everything that you’ve never known you’ve always wanted.

Though our fight to keep it wages on in insidious ways, our control over our lives is an absolute illusion. So, let it be slain and instead surrender! Say ‘yes’ to the Love that wants to drive your life. Surrender to this mysterious power whose name is Love.

The only way any of this happens is by asking. None of this is by your own power/gifts/talents! So, ask the Holy Spirit to take you where you do not know the way. Come Holy Spirit!

As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity… and another symbol from physical nature will express sufficiently well the real place of mystery before mankind. The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything—Like the sun at noonday, mystery explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. (GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy is the Assistant Director of i.d.9:16. He graduated from medical school in 2017, but felt Jesus pull him out of medicine to do full-time ministry. Joey's passion is to help people discover and embrace the most authentic ways of being "a people of God on the move" and how to live the way of life of Jesus in myriad contexts. Additionally, Joey is married, a father and enjoys the ocean, Michigan football, used bookstores and hunting for the finest espresso
Joey McCoy

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