Who are you? What words do you use to introduce yourself, to describe yourself? It’s entirely common to use your career, hobbies, and important relationships to sum yourself up. A blogger, college student, Christ-follower, employee, girlfriend, friend, daughter. This is who I am.
I’m willing to bet you have a tidy list in your head that looks kinda like that: things in your life you attach both value and identity to. Things you’ve decided are who you are. They’re good things for sure, and things you pour a whole lot of heart, time, and yourself into.
But what happens when your tidy list gets shaken up a little?
A new coworker is threatening your feeling of control and respect at work. There’s tension between you and a close friend. Your once-enthralling photography hobby is growing stale and feeling pointless.
Small difficulties like that are common. They’re just the ebb and flow of a relational, vibrant, ever-changing life. But what about when those little problems grow monstrous in your mind, feeling like they’re shifting your very foundation? What about when you know logically that something shouldn’t bother you so much, but you feel emotionally like it’s all over?
Here’s some embarrassing honesty from yours truly. This exact thing has been happening to me. . . about this blog. You see, I’ve been posting here for nine months now. I’ve been pouring hours of work into posts, design, and promoting every single week. And I’ve absolutely loved it!
But I’ve noticed that I get easily agitated and competitive when it comes to my blog. When checking my stats, my heart sinks more often than not. When reading other bloggers’ content, I talk down to myself. When looking at their beautiful Instagrams with precise and meaningful captions, I get irritable at my lack of cohesion. And this one’s the most embarrassing. . . even when my close, real-life friends write something beautiful and to the glory of God, my heart twists in agony in the background.
“I’m supposed to be the writer! That’s who I am. It’s the gift God’s given me. It’s my purpose. It’s my dream. It’s how I want to serve Him. Why am I floundering around like this? Why are my reader numbers going down while other blogs thrive? Maybe this is just a failure.”
I really, really hate to say it, but that’s been my thought pattern for the last few months. Yes, my tidy list has been getting shaken up. Quite honestly, I’ve been the partaker in an identity crisis: and until recently, I thought it was simply justified complaints running through my head. How did this happen?
You see, every single human has a desire and a need to attach themselves to an identity. We want to find something we do well and achieve significance and importance in doing it. For Christians, the stakes seem to be even higher: we want to have eternal impact, to do great things for the God of the universe.
So we find our little niches. We follow our natural passions and talents and joys, make plans and put in the work, and pray that people will be pointed to Christ through our lives. That right there? That is straight-up beautiful. That is the reason we were made. Billions of unique, individual creations using the gifts created in them to ultimately bring attention and glory to the Creator.
So where does it go wrong? I think it goes wrong at the point when we let what we do become who we see ourselves as being. There is no career, hobby, or relationship that will be perfect. That’s a no-brainer. So when we hold these things desperately tightly and closely to ourselves, claiming them as our very identity, it becomes impossible to ever be totally happy about who we are.
There is only one identity we can claim without fear of letting it down or having it let us down: an irrationally loved, forgiven, and accepted child of God. A human who constantly wavers and fumbles, freely given a saving grace, an identity that will never even shift one millimeter. It's the one and only identity that not only can handle the pressure of being our everything, but welcomes it- demands it! How mind-boggling.
Timothy Keller puts this concept beautifully in his book The Reason for God:
“We must have an identity and there must be some standard to live up to by which we get that identity. Whatever you base your life on—you have to live up to that. . . Whatever that something is becomes “Lord of your life,” whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and, if you fail him, will forgive you eternally.
If anything threatens your identity you will not just be anxious but paralyzed with fear. If you lose your identity through the failings of someone else you will not just be resentful, but locked into bitterness. If you lose it through your own failings, you will hate or despise yourself as a failure as long as you live. Only if your identity is built on God and his love, says Kierkegaard, can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.”
So set your face to the sun, child of God. Turn solely to him for the full of your identity, worth, and significance, and he will set you free. Free from the pressure and constant under-the-skin guilt of what you thought you had to be. Free from the needle-sharp surgery of perfection. Free to give it all to him: the small steps and successes, but also the pain and hard days. Free to pour into your career, relationships, and hobbies with every ounce of passion and talent he’s given you—but this time without fear. This time without your everything being at stake. This time completely, purely, mightily for him alone, with his spirit working in you. And oh, he will do things immeasurably beyond our greatest imaginations!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Look forward to new posts every Monday morning!