IDENTITY: My “One Word 365” Summer/Autumn Check-In

Seek Week is over — a phenomenal five days of fasting, prayer, solitude, community, worship, and sincere soul-searching. A week of identity.

If I could sum up my first Seek Week in a single word, it would be just that: identity. It was clearly my theme for the week, and lest I forget, it’s also my “One Word 365” theme for the entire year.

I think I had forgotten.

The last time I checked in with a One Word 365 update was back in the spring — like wayyy back in MARCH. Gosh, my year was so different then. So young and shapeless.

Summer questions.

Year questions.

Purpose and community questions.

I hadn’t even published my book yet.

What a year it’s been since.

My complete Seek Week update will be coming soon, I promise. But after a long hectic summer, it’s time to “check in” with a long overdue summer/autumn IDENTITY update.

One Word 365: Identity

IDENTITY: What’s My Name?

Yesterday at church (I love ROCKHARBOR), we kicked off a brief “vision series” that basically sets up where our next year is going. My church is committed to four key words or “markers,” and tonight we talked about — surprise, surprise — the marker of IDENTITY.

I knew instantly I’d be blogging about it later that night.

The speaker started his message with the character of Jacob — how Jacob’s life was a constant quest for identity. Even from the womb in Genesis 25, Jacob emerged dangling from his twin brother’s heel, bloody and utterly desperate to be first.

Years later in Genesis 27, he donned a fur coat and entered his blind dying father’s presence, still so desperate to be someone he wasn’t:

18 So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.”

When asked by his father for his name, Jacob responded Esau. He claimed a birthright that wasn’t his; worse, he embraced an identity that wasn’t his either.

Even more years later, Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32, one of my favorite passages where the question of identity once again resurfaces:

24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?”

What a simple yet striking question to ask someone: what is your name?

Who are you?

What’s your deal?

What makes you tick?

What’s your identity?

Long removed from his birthright-stealing days of yesteryear, Jacob didn’t mess around with that question this time:

And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

From Jacob to Esau back to Jacob, and then to Israel, Jacob finally found his true identity in a night-long wrestling match with God. And then God gave him a new name. A new identity — and a gimpy leg to remind him of it the rest of his life.

This transcending concept of names and identity has had a solid grip on me for quite a few years now — my unpublished novel is all about the subject. On this spring’s One Word 365 check-in, I blogged about my Indian name from Camp Ridgecrest — Traveling Golden Trout.

The name beautifully translated onto my blog’s banner, and the name that changed my life two summers ago.

The name I thought I’d lost forever.

Identity: Traveling Golden Trout Bracelet snapped

IDENTITY: Losing My Name?

When my Traveling Golden Trout bracelet physically snapped down the middle, I was heartbroken. I legitimately wondered:

Am I not meant to travel anymore? Am I to neglect all notions of further wandering? Is southern California to be my final resting place? My tomb?

What about going back to Camp Ridgecrest?

What about teaching English in South Korea?

What about seeing the world?

Goodness, so much has happened in the 6 months since my Traveling Golden Trout bracelet became no more.

IDENTITY: Rediscovering My Name

Earlier this year, I wondered where my life would soon lead. Battered by normalcy and mediocrity, I grew inspired to abandon life-as-usual. Starting with a return to Camp Ridgecrest and then venturing to Korea and beyond.


Camp didn’t happen.

Neither did Korea.

And yet neither of those non-adventures was necessarily depressing nor horrible. Somewhere along the winding course of spring and summer, I realized my need to stay put for a change and actually invest somewhere rather than continuously count down days to the next big adventure.

This spring, I published my first book.

This summer, I moved in with a dear friend.

This fall, I attended my church’s Seek Week and was reminded of all the precious reasons why I stayed — namely, the people.

I’ll elaborate more with my official Seek Week recap, but that’s the crux of my identity issue moving forward: I struggle to be present and simply enjoy something. Enjoy life. The precious life I’ve been given for a distinct reason.

I’m always looking ahead. Always discounting the joys of today as I daydream about the thrills of tomorrow. Next month. Next year.

Now that I’ve (roughly) settled on plans to stay in southern California for at least the next year to come, I long to embrace my todays. Embrace my identity.

Of course, y’all will be the first to know the events of my todays and eventually what comes next for ole Traveling Golden Trout.

ONE WORD 365 DISCUSSION: Do you have a “One Word 365” for this year? How’s your word shaping your life after 9 months? How does IDENTITY sit with you presently?

  • Could you be a little less relevant? Because that last part just hit me where it hurts. I, too, struggle to be present in the moment. I look around and see all the things I want to be, all the things I’m not, all the things I could be, and I get so caught up in the anxiety of it all that I forget to live in the moment and enjoy where I am. I forget that there is purpose in this moment, that God has a plan for me each and every day, and if I’m willing to let go of all the things that draw my attention away from God then I can settle and be rooted in the identity He has for me. Instead, I often seek out to create my own identity, all the while God is sitting back with his arms wide open going, “Come back to me, little one, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

    It is hard to just enjoy where God has me because it means surrendering some of my control and that is never fun. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    • TMZ

      Will try to be less relevant next time!

      Haha, but seriously, I’m glad my post could resonate and provoke your thoughts. You’re definitely not alone in straining your eyes over the oceanic horizon, desperate to see what’s ahead while ignoring the waves lapping at your feet in the present.

      Cheesy metaphor, perhaps, but it’s what I was thinking as I started typing. SO THERE YOU GO. Enjoy the waves, and I’ll try to do the same! And I LOVE that God-line you used. Awesome.

  • Rebecka

    Great post, Tom!
    Oops, I’ve completely forgotten about my One Word 365… I have spent a lot of time thinking about identity lately, though. I’ve been feeling like my identity is being hijacked and taken over by my health issues. All the things I used to do and I used to think were parts of my identity are things I can’t do anymore. My identity has become “sick”. At the same time, I know “I” am still there, my true identity is hiding underneath the disease and I miss being “me”, if that makes sense. These are all just unorganized thoughts from the top of my head, and I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say, sorry.

    • TMZ

      Thanks, Rebecka. Just remember your identity ISN’T “sick.” Regardless of your physical condition, cling to that true identity within. I wrestle with physical issues of another sort, and it’s something I truly need to remind myself of daily. Praise God the people we are inside is what God looks at.

      • Rebecka