My nephew is one and a half.
He doesn’t say a lot yet – just a few random words, and only when he feels like it. (I already am a huge fan of his stubbornness. I hope he’ll grow up sticking to his guns.) Recently my sister has been teaching him different animal sounds.
She’ll say, “Noah, what does a puppy say?” and Noah will woof obediently. Or, “Noah, what does a lion say?” and Noah will roar. “Noah, what does a monkey say?” and Noah will twist his whole body, grinning, because he knows you’re about to tickle his underarms.
Noah, of course, is not a dog or a lion or a monkey. He’s a little boy. But there are moments where I wonder if he convinces himself he is a lion because he can roar.
In the same way I wonder if I can convince myself I am unworthy because of the things I have done.
If you asked me who I am, I would hand you a variety of answers. I’d say my name is Aliza Latta. I’m 23 years old. I’m a writer, I’m in school for journalism, and I’m an artist. I’m a poor college student who owes the government a lot of money, a daughter, a sister, an apprentice of Jesus, and Noah’s auntie.
There are so many things we could say about ourselves, but if they all got stripped away, what would we be left with?
If I got kicked out of school, would I still be considered a student?
If my fingers got chopped off and I couldn’t write or make art, would I still be considered a writer and an artist?
A friend of mine has had four miscarriages in the past two years. We were together the other day, talking about this. She looked at me and said, “Aliza, all of my babies have died. Am I still a mother?”
The past few months have shaken my identity all up. I woke up questioning who I was, mourning things that had happened, and wondering where I was supposed to go or how I was supposed to move on from the person I thought I once was.
Humans — I know — are constantly evolving, shaping and shifting and growing and molding into new, changed people. This is a wonderful gift. I am very glad I am not the same person I was six years ago or six months ago or six days ago. But it begs the question: If we are consistently changing, what is the basis of our identity?
I have placed my identity in school, in a relationship status, in success. I have placed it in my Instagram following and in my independence. Each of these places are like shifting sand beneath me: zero strength or security.
But Christ is teaching me a new way.