Identity is tricky. I painfully remember my teenage years, trying desperately to be someone else, someone cooler, someone with JNCOs (if that doesn’t mean anything to you, be thankful and please insert any terrible fashion trend in its place).

Every part of me wanted to be someone that wasn’t me. Looking back, what’s so strange about that was that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Insecurity ran rampant for no good reason and I needed JNCOs.

Growing up helps. Time has a way of teaching us the lessons we don’t want to learn.

Community helps even more. In the midst of figuring out identity, to be lovingly embraced for who you are changes everything.

Churches have identities and they are just as delicate as our individual identities. I have witnessed this firsthand in the life of Inland Church.

This Sunday, we are celebrating our fourth birthday! We’ll make a big deal of this with balloons, cupcakes, and the like, mostly because we like to celebrate. All the while, we understand that a four-year-old is still young, very young.

As the identity of Inland Church has taken shape over the past four years, at times we have been afraid to embrace who we know we are. Like an awkward teenage trying to make Levi’s look like JNCOs, we have felt pressure to be something that we are not, to be like everyone else. Being different and being alone is, very simply, hard.

This summer, Inland Church officially joined the CBF family. To put words to all that this has meant to us…well, I don’t have the time and I doubt you have the patience. But suffice it to say, it’s been a blessing.

Regarding identity, joining the CBF family has brought a confidence in who we are and who we are becoming. Knowing what life was like before, I understand the value in this. To boldly claim our identity while leaning on the support and encouragement of CBF churches and individuals has been a beautiful new reality for us. For this, we are grateful.

So if you find yourself or your church gracelessly tugging at your Levi’s, just wishing you had the jeans of your neighbor, quit it. Rock those Levi’s and know that you’re not alone.

By Michael Mills, Pastor at Inland Church in Spokane, Washington