On November 20th, 2017 I boarded my flight in Ft. Lauderdale as a NASCAR Chaplain for the last time.
My final weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway is one I will not soon forget. It was a time of reflection and celebration, yet a time that was tinged with pain and fear as well.
As I settled into 20C aboard my Delta flight back to Nashville, thinking back on not only the weekend I had just experienced but also the fourteen year journey through motorsports, an embarrassing thought captured my mind.
“Now what am I going to tell people that I do?”
Of all of the victories that had been experienced during our tenure of motorsports ministry, of all of the friends we made through the years, of all of the challenges and struggles…as I sat in that blue seat with all of these things rolling through my mind, that is the thought that almost paralyzed me.
Through the years, as I had opportunities to train, mentor and invest in other men and women who were pursuing motorsports ministry, I would emphatically charge Chaplains to protect their identity. To protect their identity from the trappings of a glamorous sport, to protect their identity from the pitfalls of being loved and needed, and to protect themselves from the pitfalls of being around recognizable personalities.
Yet, there I sat with the now blaring realization that I had allowed what I did, being a NASCAR Chaplain, to define me. I’d subliminally allowed the experiences I had, the title I held, the sport I was a part of and the people I knew to define who I was as a person.
In that moment I wrestled with the reality that I may have been more concerned with “Kyle the NASCAR Chaplain” than I was “Kyle a creation of the Most High“.
It certainly was not intentional, in fact, through the years I’ve done my best to protect myself from that very thing.
Nevertheless, I realized that I had innocently allowed what I did to become who I was.
In the month that followed, God presented our family with a new mission; to serve as Chaplain for Lee Company, a large mechanical contractor in Nashville, Tennessee. While I was filled with excitement about the new opportunity in front of me; I was not finished unraveling the lies about my own identity that I allowed to seep into me.
Internally, while I was slow to admit it, the transition from a Chaplain within the NASCAR industry to a Chaplain within the corporate and construction industry dinged my pride. It shouldn’t have…but it did because I was believing the wrong things about myself.
It was a knock I needed to happen.
In our Western society we attribute worth, value and identity in all of the wrong places. Because of how fame, wealth, prestige, title, relationships, power, career and family are celebrated in our culture; it is very easy for us to begin to find our identity in all of the wrong places.
Placing our identity in the wrong place deceives us into feeling like something we aren’t. It can deceive us into thinking we are really ‘something’; and it can deceive us into thinking we are really ‘nothing’ as well.
As much as I’d like to say I was simply a victim of that lie; I allowed the deceit to happen in the first place. I encouraged and fed it in countless ways; unknowingly and knowingly.
But the truth is this. What we do, what we have, who we know…none of these things define us.
The danger of placing our identity in the wrong place is that it has the potential to turn the story away from Christ and towards ourselves.
When we take the ‘identity’ bait; we begin to live and act like the story is about us. We fail to see that it is completely converse to the life and ministry of Jesus.
I had spent so much time around a segment of people that society values because of what they do; that I began to value myself because of it as well. The past year has been a journey of unraveling and reaffirming my own identity. It’s been an interesting, yet beautiful experience.
In February of 2019 I had the opportunity to attend the Daytona 500; my first time back at a National Series NASCAR event in over a year. While I was excited to be with old friends, I was nervous as well. I was nervous because I didn’t know what the experience would do to me. Would I miss it? Would the lies about my identity seep back in? Would I find myself dealing with discontent?
Looking back on the weekend I can say this; it was a blast…but it was also emotionless. I didn’t lament and miss it. It was in the moment I walked down pit road prior to the Great American Race longing to be back home that I realized I was healed of the identity crisis I once unknowingly held. I didn’t long to be back in that environment; I longed to be back with my family and back serving where God has now led us to serve.
I’ve come to find myself more secure than I have ever been in life. I’ve come to find myself more fulfilled than I’ve ever been in life. I’ve come to find myself more content than I’ve ever been in life. I’ve come to find myself more joyful to serve than I’ve ever been in life. It’s all because I’ve come to learn how to see myself as God sees me. I’ve rooted my identity in Him.
My identity is not defined by the industry I work in nor the work I accomplish as a Chaplain. My identity is not found in being a father, or a husband…or a son or a friend. It’s not found in the home I own or the car I drive. It’s not found in the bank account balance or the TV on the stand.
My identity is solely rooted in who God says I am. He made me, doesn’t He reserve the right to define me?
The more I’ve unraveled my own identity, the more ardent I’ve become about helping others uncover their identity as well. While society says your identity and worth, or lack of it, is based on what you have, what you do and who you know; God speaks truths over us that are irrevocable regardless of any of those things.
We are God’s children (1 John 3:1). Delighted in (Zephaniah 3:17). Forgiven (1 Peter 2:24). Washed clean (Isaiah 1:18). A masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Set apart (1 Peter 2:9). Holding a secured future (Jeremiah 29:11). Whole in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
It does not matter if we drive a race car or swing a hammer. We could work on the ball field or in the classroom. Our title could be CEO or it could be helper. Our bank account could be $1,000,000 or it could be $100.
None of it defines me, and none of it defines you. Only what God says about you does. And this is what is true…
…YOU are God’s beloved; so all you have to do is BE LOVED and let your life continue to be a response to the love you’ve received.