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Erin Andrews is a television and sportscaster. Some know her from Dancing with the Stars. But millions know her from watching her strip down naked online.

Erin has been visually raped by millions when she was unknowingly filmed naked through a hotel wall. If you’re a woman, you know what it’s like to be visually undressed by a strange man. It’s horrible, violating and degrading. You feel like less of a human being.  Your mind, spirit and soul aren’t worth a penny to those violating eyes. They take your body for their imagination and abuse it. Now take that feeling, remove all your clothes, film it for the internet and multiply it by 1,000,000.

That’s where Erin lives everyday.

It doesn’t end there.

When you try to stand up for yourself, you’re met with accusations and criticism. You use your body for power. You’re a teaseYou tempt me to manipulate meIf you don’t want men looking at you, then you should cover up/ not wear lipstick/ heels.

Adding fuel to the fire, executives of the hotel where the filming happened, not only accuse her of capitalizing on her assault but then watched the video in a public diner, where a waitress overheard them mocking and criticizing her body. Erin has now been visually raped, robbed of privacy, accused of ambition, criticized and humiliated.

I lose sleep at night if someone criticizes me unfairly for one thing, I can’t comprehend what Erin has gone through.

We’ve all been accused unfairly.

It’s painful!

You want to run and tell everyone the truth. You want to stand up for yourself and set the record straight in their eyes.

In high school, I had less than stellar taste in boyfriends. One guy stole a pair of my underwear and passed them around the lacrosse team while giving an elaborately tantalizing story to match. Nothing actually happened between us, except that I left my room for a moment, when he dipped into my drawer and grabbed my prettiest pair. I had no idea he did this until I heard the rumors myself. His story spread not just in one high school, but two.

My identity according to others was completely out of my control. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Not because of who I knew I was, but how others now saw me. There was nothing I could do.

Do you listen to messages in church about “knowing who you are in Christ”, but walk away feeling more discouraged instead of affirmed?

I have.

Wishing I could simply wave goodbye to people pleasing, insecurity and comparison.  Walking in our Christ-like identity can feel like the unicorn of Christianity; a magical place where God’s purpose meets our desires to perfectly align and manifest answered prayers, favor and dreams come true.

Identity is a challenging journey, often pieced together over many years and layers.  My own identity journey has been one of healing from eating disorders and a distorted body image.  Yet over a decade later, the roots of that struggle can rear it’s insecure ugly head and bring me back, pressing into God’s word.

Identity. 

Our choices and actions stem from how we see ourselves. Who do we believe we are?  Who does God say I am? Who do others say I am? To be known and understood is a deep human need.

Why is identity so hard? Why can’t we get saved and have God’s identity stamped on our heart, mind and spirit immediately?

It’s a journey of discovery. The same way I love seeing my son discover earth’s creations for the first time. The moment he first felt wind and basked in the breeze. The time we felt the surge of waves in the ocean together. He experienced one at a time to fully embrace the goodness and pleasure of that revelation.

God is the same with us.

He reveals our identity over time, giving space to fully know each facet it without a doubt. When we carry that rich revelation in our identity we can give it away. Knowing our identity, isn’t just about us, it’s for others.

What we say to and about people shapes their identity. It’s easy to speculate, form opinions and claim we know others motives and character. Our misperceptions of people can lead to their mis-identity.

God wants to reclaim your identity, my identity and Erin Andrews’ identity. We are His prized creation, worthy of grace, covering, blessing and love. All of us are lovingly made in His image, whether we love Him, ignore Him or hate Him. When we know God’s character and love, we discover our identity as God intended.

And yet, what others say about us impacts our identity as well.

How do we help others know their God-given identity?

What helped me get over the rumors of the underwear bandit were a few good friends who knew me and said: “Tamara, we know those rumors aren’t true. We know who you really are.  It’s going to be ok, now let’s go get a Mocha Frappe.” 

Having friends who knew me, loved me and spoke truth into me gave me the freedom to let go and be myself again.

Ask God to reveal both His true identity and yours. From here we carve out a journey of empathy, faith and restoration.

Let’s see people the way God does.

Speak to and about them in love.

What happens then? We know who we are in Christ, both in our identity and our purpose in the world.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” 

― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging