Chris Morphew, Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? (The Good Book Company, 2022)
When people ask me what topics we should be talking about with our young people, I immediately have an answer: after Jesus and the gospel (obviously!), I think a key topic today is identity.
No doubt identity has always been a big issue for young people, but today it’s even more prominent. Young people are constantly being told that they need to be true to themselves to experience their best life. They’re seeing people ‘being their authentic selves’ on social media, even though, somewhat ironically, these authentic selves are usually only visible through photos that have been enhanced and have had filters applied. Young people know that they need to work out who they are, and they know that doing so is important.
Given this context we need good resources that help young people to think about identity and to hear the Bible’s better message on how they can really be true to themselves. Chris Morphew’s book, Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? is a great example of such a resource. The book is part of Big Questions, a series of books aimed at 9 to 13-year-olds. It’s short, accessible and well-illustrated – exactly what’s needed for tweens.
Morphew starts by helping us think about the two questions in the title and why they are so important. He then helps us see why they are tricky questions, showing that two of the common ways of answering these questions – what we feel inside and what our friends say – don’t really work. This is all really important stuff. Morphew is engaging with the world our young people are living in, clearing the way to present the Bible’s better answer, all the while keeping it simple and accessible for young readers.
With the ground now cleared, Morphew talks about the nature of true freedom – that it is only found and experienced when we put God first and receive our identity from him as our creator. The chapters that follow talk about who God says we are – those made in his image and loved by him – and then tackle the question of how this can be true, given that we all mess up and make mistakes. Morphew does a great job of sharing the gospel through the concept of identity, which I think is one of the most effective ways of communicating the gospel to younger generations. Younger people may not be so conscious of their need for forgiveness, but they are conscious of their need to know who they are and to be true to that identity. Showing how the gospel can answer our need for identity is a great way of connecting the gospel with where our young people are at. Youth leaders can learn a lot about how to communicate the gospel to young people from this book. This gospel-centred approach also means this book could be a great evangelistic tool. Young people who are interested in exploring the Christian faith or who have grown up in a Christian family but have not yet themselves chosen to follow Jesus might find this book really helpful.
Morphew doesn’t just give theory; he helps young people see how we can put this into practice.
The last few chapters get really practical: What real-life difference does God-given identity make? And how can we grow to experience it more? A final chapter ends the book in an unexpected but powerful place. ‘Resting in the love of Jesus’ encourages young people to take up the practice of sabbath as a heart-shaping habit that helps push against the world’s message that our identity and value are rooted in what we do and what we achieve. I love that Morphew doesn’t just give theory; he helps young people see how we can put this into practice.
One of the reasons that identity is such an important topic for us to discuss with our young people is the way that it intersects with the topics of sexuality and gender. One of the messages young people are regularly being told is that their sexuality and their gender are who they are and that they therefore need to be embraced and acted upon so that we can experience our best lives. Morphew doesn’t make much mention of sexuality and gender, but he’s laying foundations that will help young people understand some of the problems with the world’s view and the goodness of the Bible’s view on these topics.
This would be a great book to give to a young person you know. Parents could read it together with their children. Children’s group and youth groups could make use of the material. It would work well as a basis for discussion, and a free discussion guide is available to download from the publisher’s website. Parents, children’s group leaders and youth leaders will benefit from reading this book to learn how to talk about identity, value, and the gospel in ways that will connect with tweens. And, to be honest, I think a lot of adults would benefit from reading the book too. After all, don’t we all want to know ‘Who am I and why do I matter?’