Over the last 3 years I have had to work through the issues of identity. particularly, because I am now a 43-year-old male; I have had to work through personal issues of my male identity.
I was fairly active, though not an athlete. My health was generally good, though I have suffered some asthma and have suffered a few accidents. I enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping, and gardening. Apart from leaving work for study reasons I have never been out of work. I had mostly done physical work, ranging from being a farm hand, building supplies yard manager, carpenters offsider and for 6 years had my cleaning business.I had much pride and contentment in the work I did. I was even planning to join the army reserves as an engineer with the intention to later join as a chaplain, once I finished my theological degree.
But this all changed. One the 17th of October 2007 at 2:45pm I fell sick and collapsed on the ground at work. I had right-sided weakness, which was like paralysis and a high temp of 40.9 cels. I was found on the ground one and a half hours after I collapsed. And was hospitalised for the next 52 days. Over this time I had to relearn to walk, talk and mobilise, slowly building up my strength. Recovery was slow and now near 3 years later, I still have some difficulty. At one time i was taking the steroid Prednisone, which helped a lot and gave me more strength. Though after the advice of my specialist I went off it. My Gp had put me on it, to help control my asthma.
I was soon to face deeper issues at home. Was told often by my then wife that I wasn’t a real man and that a real man would have been out working instead of lying on his back doing nothing…including the time I was in hospital… the first time I was told this; was when I had asked for some money to buy the kids some Christmas presents. I was in a wheel chair at the times.
Those words hit me hard. The knocked the stuffing out of me. The reason being is that deep within me, I too was asking myself questions about my manhood. Actually to be truthful, I was probably ignoring those questions and depression set in.
I was no longer able to do the things that I once did. I remember having to go through an employment agency and when filling in a form that had a list of things I could do and not do, I was happily ticking away. Yep, I can do this, I can do that. Until I reached the end and finally had to admit that I used to be able to do those things, but now I can’t do any of them.
A lot of my identity was formed in what I did. It was formed in what I wanted to do and what I thought I was called to do. It was formed by my family. I was a dad of 2 boys and step dad of 3 others. A husband of one wife and we had a nice house with a small mortgage. I was active in church and had many good friends.
Yet slowly these were stripped away from me. I became ostracised from family, friends and church. I became homeless for 6 weeks where I slept in the back of my van. I had become numb and could barely function. I faced ongoing health issues. I decided to go back to study in 2009 and the morning of a major exam was told by my specialist that she thought I had MS.
Slowly my whole identity was stripped away from me. It came to the point that when ever I signed my name my hand would shake. I still shake at times now, when I sign my name. I have spoken about this with my counsellor and we both believe it has some cause to do with identity because I no longer knew who I was any more.
Slowly God knitted me back together. I am now remarried to a gorgeous gal. I don’t live with my boys though I do speak and see them on a regular basis. I still have some health issues and have just enrolled to go back to college again this semester, after finishing a cert 1V in Chaplaincy.
What has this to do with identity you might ask? What I have learnt about identity is that now my identity is not about what I do or don’t do. It’s not about what I have or don’t have in a physical sense.
My identity is deeper. As man, my identity is formed by;
- Knowing that God truly loves me and accepts me as I am
- That I am able to love and accept myself as I am.
- That I am able to love and accept others as they are.
I do have a 4th point now that is a great bonus and that is I am married to a great gal who loves and accepts me as I am.
Everything else in my life is a bonus. What ever I do, isn’t who I am. What ever I own, it isn’t who I am. Who ever is around me or considers me a friend doesn’t define who I am. As a man I have found this frees me more than who I was before.
The Apostle Paul says in the book of Philippians that he has found the secret to be content whether he has little or has plenty. Whether he is in prison or is free.
The true identity of a man, is in how much he loves and knowing how much he is loved by God.