“If Your Identity is Broken, Your Life is Broken”

by Leize Marie Davis

Men experiencing homelessness chatting at Atlanta MissionMany early mornings at The Shepherd’s Inn, I have been visited by Paul. He comes in beaming and asking how he can pray for me. Throughout the conversation, he begins to recite the litany of his past wrongs and wounds: in and out of jail, abused as a child, drugs, life on the streets, etc. It breaks my heart that not only is his identity anchored in past abuse and mistakes. I wonder if he sees the joyful smile he brings to the room in the same way I do.

For years I tried to engage a client who has been in and out of one our shelter campuses for longer than I have worked here. Most times, she never speaks, and the rare responses I get are never friendly. A few weeks ago, I heard a client say goodbye as I was heading to my car. It was her! I barely recognized her with a smile on her face.

In his book People of the Second Chance, Mike Foster states, “…just because we have made mistakes doesn’t mean we are mistakes… Identity is the engine that drives the relationship not only with ourselves but also with God and Others. If your identity is broken, your life is broken.”

The men and women we serve believe their lives are the sum of their mistakes and their past wounds define the future. In order to help our clients become rooted in community we must address these broken identities. It is important that we work to see what is hidden deep beneath the scars and wounds of lives filled with trauma and abuse. We must demonstrate that the Lord believes they are more than the broken identity they see in the mirror.

The world tells those experiencing homelessness that they deserve to be in the margins, that their behavior is a representation of their identity. But we as Believers know better. We are called to repair their broken identities and help them see who they truly are, a beautiful creation made in God’s image.