“…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
As far back as I can remember, I struggled to answer the question, “Who am I?” I loved Jesus at an early age but I also experienced sexual abuse that left me feeling dirty and ashamed. Was I a purified, precious daughter of the King or was I a worthless piece of trash?
My college years were fraught with identity crisis after identity crisis. Rocked by emotional turmoil, consumed by thoughts of the opposite sex and floundering in attempts at independence, I ended up looking more juvenile than mature, foolish than sophisticated. I defined myself by the people I hung out with, the classes I excelled in or the clothing that got me noticed. My identity was all about me.
That wounded, self-absorbed young woman married a young man who had identity issues of his own. Proud of his squeaky clean, nice guy reputation, my husband was sure he could tame the wild woman in me. Neither one of us was living out of a heart that was defined by the finished work of Christ on the cross.
After much conviction of sin and a loving confrontation, we repented before God and each other by enduring hours of brutally honest and painful conversation about my past and our future. God was breaking strongholds of identity in both of us. I was emerging from the very dark (yet somehow comfortable) identity of shame that held me captive for years, and my husband was shedding the moralistic, self-righteous mask to become the strong, compassionate shepherd that he is today. We were seeing ourselves and each other in light of the cross.
God did some serious renovation of our hearts and identity. For as much as the world tells us our identity is all about us, the Bible turns that definition on its head and makes it all about God. Our identity flows out of our theology. The more clearly and rightly and intimately we know God, the better understanding we will have of our lives and purpose on earth.
Even as I write, this struggle continues. When I listen carefully to myself, I quickly realize that most of what I say is all about me.
I am a moody wife. Am I letting my feelings rule over me?
I am a homeschool mom. Am I ruining my kids?
I am an abuse survivor. Am I really loved?
I am worried about my health. Am I going to die?
Constantly bombarded with soul-numbing means of identifying myself outside of God, I grasp at any and everything that makes me feel mighty and important. I want to be god.
As I really begin to consider the implications of these (and many more) statements, God shows me the weakness of my faith and belief and leads me on a journey of identity redemption.
Through much godly grief and repentance, God has led me to proper worship of His glory and not my own. Understanding and defining myself in light of the cross has had a profound impact on the way I live my life.
I am a wife…but I am a slave to righteousness, not to my emotions.
I am a mom…but Christ is my kids’ Savior–not my mothering.
I am an abuse survivor…but God loved–and still loves–that precious little girl.
I am weak in body and spirit…but Christ is my Strength, my Shield.
The Bible jars us into reality as God’s chosen people. Our identity is based solely on His.
He is Creator. We are the utterly helpless creation.
He is Redeemer. We desperately need change.
He is Savior. We must be rescued.
He is Lord. We need His rule over our lives.
Who He is gives meaning and definition to every moment of our lives—every breath of our souls. By His grace alone, I am what I am. Lord, help me to live my life in submission to you, giving you glory in everything. Your Grace to me will not be in vain.