David Lomas serves as the lead pastor at Reality in San Francisco, a church community that started in 2010 in the Castro District. He lives, with his wife Ashley, in one of the most un-churched cities in the nation, but one that is bursting with new life and the grace of God. The Reality family of churches is a growing movement committed to relational church planting and serving the broader body of Christ. His new book The Truest Thing about You: Identity, Desire, and Why It All Matters is about the transformation possible when we discover our real identity in Christ.
KW: As a church planter and pastor, when did you first notice the issue of our true identity?
DL: I planted a church in San Francisco four years ago. People tend to move to SF to make something of themselves, to find themselves, or to be themselves. So the message of identity is in the city’s DNA. Even if people aren’t consciously asking the question What is my true identity?, they’re still trying to find the answer subconsciously.
This is a deeply human question, too, so it hit a nerve at our church when I taught on identity in Christ and Imago Dei. Just because we were Christians, that didn’t mean we’d figured out who we were, and it certainly didn’t mean we were living secure and holy lives every day because we followed Jesus. In the back of my pastor brain I thought it was supposed to work like that—but it wasn’t quite that simple. So I tried to show how the whole of Paul’s teaching (in my opinion) is about driving who we are in Christ deep into the core of our beings until we understand it is the truest thing about us.
KW: Working in the context of San Francisco, how does identity play out?
DL: San Francisco is just the rest of the country with the volume turned up. People move here because they have a great idea or product or startup. They move here because they want to live a lifestyle that won’t be judged by their hometown. This city is full of people who find their identity in three places: what they do, what they have, or what they desire. And this is true for the church, too! We take things that might be true about us—like jobs, possessions, desires, and dreams—and we push them down to the fundamental layer of who we are. We make them everything.
In short, we wrongly make those true things into the truest things. And that’s where the problems start.
KW: In the book you ask, What if the truest thing about you can cause you to reimagine your entire life? How has the message of this book caused you to reimagine your own life?
DL: It’s tempting to make my job more important than it really is. The truest thing about me is not that I’m a pastor of a church in San Francisco. That can go away. I can move to another church or another city. I can even end up working at Starbucks (again). But none of that can change what’s truest about me. The truest thing about me is not that I’m a husband, either. That can change in a tragic moment. The truest thing about me is not that I want to be a father. My wife and I have been trying to have children for years, and we don’t believe God has released us to adopt right now. It’s like we’ve been in a 5-year holding pattern, and that can weigh on me.
So if I find my identity in my job, or my marriage, or wanting to be a father—all good things!—I’ll be leaning my whole identity on things that aren’t meant to hold me up. I constantly have to push what’s truest about me to the core of my soul. And when I do that, it frees me to be a pastor and husband in a rightly ordered way.
KW: What is the heart of what you want people to take away from the book?
DL: I want people to come away with the deep sense that they are human, created in the image of God and loved by that same God. We get lost in a maze of confusion when we think we have to “find” ourselves or “make” ourselves. We don’t. We can’t. The only way to gain an identity is to receive one. Jesus received his identity at his baptism—and God called Jesus his beloved and delightful son—before Jesus did anything we might deem worthy of such love. When we’re in Jesus, it’s the same for us: we’re God’s beloved children, not because we earn it, but just for being. I pray that truth liberates many.
KW: How do we find our truest identity?
DL: You might expect application points. A “to-do-list” of identity. Some journal questions. Five things you can do in the next five weeks to actualize your new identity. But that’s not what this book is about. Unless you drive the single message of this book to the core of your being—beyond belief, to the place of your deepest trust—no application will stick.
So here it is.
You will not find your identity in what you have, but in Who has you. You will not find your identity in what you do, but in what has been done for you. And you will not find your identity in what you desire, but in Who has desired—at infinite cost to Himself—a relationship with you.