(thank you google images)It has been so long since I last posted and even longer since I last wrote something for my blog. I miss blogging. I miss the structure of having a space where I can process what God is teaching me, bringing me through, and bringing me to. My mind and my heart have been on overdrive in this season of life. My energy has been focused on putting one foot in front of the other. So, this is my attempt to ease back into blogging. J
A Few Things That God is Teaching Me in this Season:
1) My identity and self-worth is grossly misplaced. (See details below)
2) As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." -Cost of Discipleship. The Bible says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV)
3) A fruitful or “successful” or “productive” life is a life lived in love—living out of God’s love for us by loving God, loving His Church, and loving all people. I can be a gifted speaker, a prophet, a brilliant and wise person, I can give up all that I have and do all sorts of daring, innovative and incredible things, but if I don’t love, everything I do is pointless! (1 Cor 13).
4) Biblical love is not intuitive and does not look like what I see in the world. Biblical love is selfless, sacrificial, risk-taking, protective, active, sincere, affectionate, bold, gracious, prayerful, and scandalous. Biblical love is Jesus dying on the cross in the place of sinners. Biblical love is Jesus, the King of Kings, washing the feet of his humble disciples, including the one He knew would betray Him to His torture and death! Biblical love is Jesus standing between the woman caught in adultery and the self-righteous powerful Pharisees who would stone her. Biblical love is Jesus weeping with His grieving friends, even though He knew that Lazarus would rise from the dead. Biblical love is given by the Holy Spirit who fills us with this love as we seek the face of God.
5) Loving people by the Holy Spirit in the way that Jesus modeled, IS carrying our cross and does require at great sacrifice. As we lay down our life in big and small ways and as we wash the feet of those around us, we step into the life God has for us—fruitful, joyful, kingdom life that is dependent on the God who is our Tender Loving Father and that is empowered by the same God who is Sovereign Almighty Ruler of All!
Today, I will focus on the first thing on the list I made above: identity.
My identity is as a child of Almighty God and a co-heir with Christ. As someone who has grown up in the church and who has been a Christian for at least 26 years, this news is no surprise in theory. What has been surprising to me is how much I place my identity and self-worth in things that are not Him. I did not see the subtle and deep ways in which this has been true in my life. My identity and self-worth have been intertwined with factors such as relational success, career, ambition, and appearance. In the last five years, many of these crutches have been taken away in my life and have been exposed for what they are—crutches and lifeless idols.
Relational success: I have always considered relating to people to be one of my strong points in family, in church, and in my career. This season has been marked by trying relationships. I have been overbearing and too quick to speak and too slow to listen. I have struggled with bitterness and resentment. I have been overcome with grief. And I have succumbed to despair, apathy, and isolation. From others, I have personally experienced abandonment, betrayal, and false accusations. I have also witnessed selfish ambition break fellowship in the family of God and lead to confusion, depression and challenges of faith in so many sheep in the flock of God. I have been led by God to speak up and act in situations that have been uncomfortable and that have had great personal cost, including lost or strained friendships, lost income, and lost reputation (being liked/respected/associated with). The ugliness of sin in me and among God’s people has been disillusioning, even though it should come as no surprise in the sense that we are all fallen creatures in the process of being redeemed to what we were made to be as image bearers of Christ.
Career: In order to pursue becoming a mother, I resigned from a job I loved as an attorney in an exciting and fulfilling social justice field. After years of trying, motherhood never came for me. I am not sure if it ever will. At the same time, it does not seem that the Lord is leading me to pursue re-entry into the legal field for now. This season of limbo makes me feel aimless and restless.
Ambition: This has a lot to do with the relational success and career for me, but in broader terms, I would say that the way that ambition has become an identity crutch for me is that I have always had a clear next step in life—whether that was college, law school, becoming an attorney, building my career, becoming a wife, being involved in various ministries, etc. Now, my next steps are not so clear. My planned next step has been motherhood, and so far that has not come to fruition (and the clock ticks away). In the past, I was always “doing something”—being in school, being a part of a social justice movement, volunteering, being active in ministry, etc. Because of the season that God has me in where I am doing a lot of reflecting and healing, I have scaled back on a lot of these activities from which I was deriving identity and worth. Because of the brokenness I have been experiencing, many dreams/life goals have been put on hold.
Appearance: This one may be the most embarrassing one for me to admit because of how shallow it is. I am at my all-time highest weight. I feel ugly. Nothing fits the way it is supposed to and I am not as energetic as I used to be. Like so many women, I have struggled all of my life with attaching my identity and worth to how attractive I feel. I find myself engaging in negative self-talk, focusing on how ugly and worthless I feel about my appearance. These words are words I would never think about another person and would never say to another person who is struggling with their weight. I get caught up in the cycle of striving, performance, failure, and despair when it comes to trying to lose weight. I have so much mental and emotional energy expended in this area of my life, and it distracts me from the things I want my life to be about. When I die, I don’t want to be remembered as a “skinny person” or a “cute person”. I want to be remembered as a daughter of God who treasured Christ and accordingly lived a life marked by joyful obedience, loving others as one who has been loved extravagantly by her Savior. Sure, this vision ought to have implications on my relationship to food and activity, but food, activity and weight are not the point in themselves.
There are other ways (some known to me and others not yet known) in which I derive my identity and worth in sources that are not God. But these are some primary ways that God is exposing for me to see in this season of my life. While these things are not necessarily bad things in themselves (i.e. it is good to have harmony in our relationships, it is good to have plans and work toward goals, etc.) they become dysfunctional when they begin to define us in the place of Christ. As these empty crutches are exposed and uprooted in my life, I find myself longing to say with Paul, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)My identity and worth is as an image bearer of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
My identity and worth is as one who is loved by Almighty God. (Isaiah 49:15-16; Zeph 3:17; John 3:16; 1 John 3)My identity and worth is as one who is chosen, made clean, being sanctified, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, given a purpose and a future and a hope and an inheritance. (See Ephesians 1: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)