Many of us may not yet know or even understand the identity struggle that immigrants go through when they go and reside in a foreign country, especially if they’re settled into a community that’s not too welcoming of their differences in values and beliefs.
I came to the U.S. when I was fourteen years old along with my mom, as sponsored by my dad. It was a culture shock for us. But the greatest challenge that any of us had at any moment is the identity struggle.
When I came here, I hadn’t yet understood and appreciated my own culture as some older folks would have had already. Therefore, I was met with the offer to take on an American identity, precisely an African-American identity. But I am Haitian, and yet didn’t know what that truly entailed at such a young age. I pretty much muted my own identity because, other than my own immediate parents, no one in my surrounding community would even appreciate my differences. So, because nobody else offered much appreciation for my ethnicity, I took it as being worthless. The subtle message that was conveyed to me was that “if no one else values it, then it’s not as valuable as I once thought.”
And I can say that, though my parents had not yet this level of struggle, they each had their own identity struggle. Some that I can recognize, and others that they’d have to personally reveal to me. My dad may have struggled with trying to be recognized as a pastor while my mom may have struggled with being known as a responsible and caring wife and mother like many in her surroundings by working her heart out.
When I came and started living here, the siblings that I had found already here in the U.S. each had their own identity crisis. Everyone wanted to be someone that they are not. Other than the fact that we all could speak Haitian Creole and that we still ate Haitian food, I realized that we were all on a quest to become someone that we are not.
I remember running into a few Haitian young girls at a certain church meeting a few months after I arrived here. They were themselves found in their own identity struggle. As a guest to the meeting along with my parents, I was rather shunned for probably being a “just-come”. I somewhat wished they had welcomed me and engaged in some friendly conversation with me. But, unless their parents were addressing them in Haitian Creole, they probably would refrain from speaking the language and simply carried on in English as they normally would.
Three years after my entry, I started my first year in college. This year was challenging for me as much as my first year in high school. I lived on campus for two semesters. By then, I knew enough English to get myself out of trouble. While trying to learn the materials, I also had the burden to try to fit in campus life. Until I had started to hear someone speaking Haitian Creole near me at the Computer lab, I wasn’t yet feeling at home. I wasn’t feeling that I could be myself and joke around authentically.
It wasn’t until another older brother of mine came and join me here had I started learning what it means to be Haitian and started appreciating once more my culture.
This is just a small glance of my own identity struggle.
Many of us today, even if you’re not an immigrant in a foreign land, are still seeking our identity. We put on and try identities like we try on dresses and shoes at the clothing stores. We put an appearance and wait for others’ assessment of the appearance. We seek for others to either like, love or appreciate us through different cloaks.
My identity quest only came to an end when Jesus showed himself to me. Only then did I learn that all of Jesus loves all of me. Only then had I started to truly feel loved, and truly feel at rest.
I hope and pray that you too come to such reality now so that you can truly breathe and finally rest from your never-ending journey of identity quest.
Jesus said to me that I am me and that He loves all of me and that His Father loves all of me. I can sleep on that. I can now rest because of Jesus.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)
My quest today is not for the world to know me, but to know Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for the world. Not I. Thus, it is better that the world knows Jesus, their Redeemer, and God their Savior.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
In the name of Jesus, be reconciled to God.
Knowing what Jesus has done to you and for you, rejoice.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)
In Christ, God resolved my identity crisis. He put to rest my never-ending journey of seeking to know who I am, my restless journey of trying to become someone that I am not. He let me know that I am His child because of the blood of Jesus poured out for me. Since then, I’ve found myself at rest. My rest was not found in being a good student. It wasn’t found in being an obedient child to my parents. It wasn’t found in being a responsible worker at my job. It wasn’t found in being a loving husband to my wife. It wasn’t found in being a caring father to my children. My rest was found in the blood of Jesus Christ poured for me. Because no matter what I could try or had tried to do by my own efforts, only the blood of Jesus made me right with God.