I was in middle school in 1990, which means that I had crush on Winnie Cooper, the on-again-off-again girlfriend of The Wonder Years' protagonist, Kevin Arnold.
In 2016, NOVA published a video starring Danica McKellar, the actress who played Winnie Cooper, all grown up and good at math. In the short segment, Danica shares about the challenges she faced trying to find her identity outside of the Wonder Years. The question plaguing her thoughts was, "Who else would I be if I didn't have this role?" Even as a student at UCLA, she was constantly (and only) recognized as Winnie. At first, that kind of fame would have been flattering; after a while, however, it got old. Winnie Cooper was the identity she couldn't shake. Nothing against Winnie, but that wasn't who she really was, it wasn't who she wanted to be, nor was it who she knew she could be.
Danica goes on to share about the moment when she felt her identity change. She nailed a college math test, scoring a 22 on the exam and crushing the rest of the class. The first time she was recognized as "the girl who got a 22" and not "the girl from The Wonder Years" was a defining moment. This "22 Moment" was the beginning of a new identity, her new self. She was no longer Winnie Cooper; she was Danica McKellar, the mathematician.
You and I were never child TV stars, so our identity issues are probably not as pronounced as Danica's was. Nevertheless, we all know what it's like to have our identity wrapped up in something unfulfilling or even undesirable. They may not all be negative experiences, though many times those pieces of us are; regardless, they attach to us like a nickname, inextricably binding themselves to us. The divorced, single mother; the high school quarterback; the CEO; the alcoholic; the class clown; the out-of-work husband. Those are not who we are, and they don't define us. At best, our self-worth is wrapped up in a kind of performance-based role; at worst we see ourselves as a product of things that happen to us.
The good news is that it is possible to have our identity re-formed. Each and every one of us can, like Danica, have a "22 moment" - a moment where we realize we no longer have to be bound by our past damages or achievements. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!" The moment that we place our faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become his. That doesn't mean we become a better, more moral or spiritual version of ourselves; it means that we become a new creation altogether. Who or what we were before that has passed away, and we are made brand new - born again - in Christ. We are no longer defined by our achievements, which means that we don't have to feel pressure to continue success in order to have self-worth. We are also no longer defined by sin - by the things we have done or the things that have been done to us; instead, we are defined only as belonging to Christ. Freedom!
Regardless of where you find yourself today, you can have a "22 moment." Remember that you belong to Christ and that in Him you are a new creation. You belong to him and to his Father. Remind yourself of that often - every moment of every day, if you need to. Breathe it in, rest in it, and live it out. The old has gone, the new has come!
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22...and it feels like freedom!