Picture it. I, like many of you, have somewhere to be five minutes ago. Being the intentional planner that I am, I laid out everyone’s clothes the night before to ensure efficiency in the morning. When the kids arose, I had a complete, whole food breakfast waiting. I even had my quiet time before they woke up. The birds chirping in harmony with the sunrise was the perfect compliment to my study.
But then it happened. My first child came down the stairs complaining of a stomachache. I began to tend to them as the next one stumbled down the stairs complaining that the shirt I laid out is too small. I put the aching child aside to help the other find a shirt that fits.
As I made the dreaded trek upstairs, I suddenly hear glass shattering from the plate that was holding the hot breakfast I so purposely prepared. By the time I eventually head out the door, I realize I’m missing more than just my peace from the early morning.
“My purse, where is my purse?”
Luckily, I find it quickly enough. But as I scrounge through receipts, out dated lipsticks, and half-chewed packets of gum, I realize something’s missing.
“Where’s my ID?” I hurriedly sputter out, trying not to raise my voice. I know I can’t drive without it. In fact, there’s not much on my to-do list that I can do without it.
Sadly, many of us have lost more than our personal identification. Our very souls seem to be wandering around searching for who we are while we unknowingly go about our daily activities. And as a modern woman, I struggle with letting what I do tell me who I am. I convince myself that I’m somehow supposed to master the art of plate spinning — serving up the role of wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and fulfilled co-worker. Said simply, I confuse my “who” with my “do.”
If I am what I do, then I am nothing more than my Facebook profile description:
I am a happily married, Jesus lovin’, passionately living, community building, ministry serving, Freelance writing, cloth diapering, marathon running, super food eating, breastfeeding, DREAMER of a momma!”
Godly, socially conscious, talented, selfless, and healthy wife and mother rounds out a pretty whole person, don’t your think? I sound like superwoman herself! Just to be clear, I conveniently left off Type A, easily irritated, particular, hot tempered, impulsive, opinionated, strong willed, rebellious, and stubborn. Still want to trade capes? I didn’t think so.
In my own personal search for identity, I turned over every rock possible to “find myself.” And that search left me with more than grime and dirt under my fingernails.
In high school, I looked for myself in the approval of others and based a lot of my identity on my appearance. I aimed to have a petite waist size and the perfect tan to coincide with my ever-so-short cheerleading skirt. Socioeconomic restraints and my love for Little Debbie snack cakes kept this goal from consistently being achieved. However, this is something I still have to be conscious of today. Wearing heels and a cute top doesn’t define who I am.
Not knowing who I was also caused me to go along with peer pressure most of the time, which meant being in relationships that weren’t healthy. I dated a boy that proved to be quite the delinquent and although I never approved of his ways, I didn’t know myself well enough to leave. This relationship became very destructive and lead to a lot of hurtful scarring in my personal life. Deep down, I knew something wasn’t right but I wasn’t sure what. God protected me, though, and I was unable to find my identity in that relationship.
In college, I was even more lost than before. My previous experiences had done a number on my self-esteem and I found myself in and out of even more dangerous situations. I dabbled in drugs and gave myself to any hope of acceptance. I clearly remember crying out for so much more than these temporary fixes could offer me. Fortunately, God would not allow me to find my find my identity in euphoric experiences or broken promises.
Entering marriage, I still had a lot of hurts but had experienced many years of healing and getting to know my Savior. I was starting to learn that my identity was in Christ. As I got to know Him better, I began to know myself better. Each moment spent with Him revealed the better parts of me that were hidden under the dysfunction of my earlier years.
However, I began to look for my identity in my marriage. I tried to fulfill the role of what I thought a wife was supposed to be. Somehow, I lost myself along the way and wasted many years not seeking out the things that I enjoyed. My husband didn’t ask me to do this. I simply just didn’t know who I was. I spent a lot of time discounting my likes and looked to his interests to find my own. I was looking for my identity in him.
It was at this time that we began working in ministry. I once again fell into the trap of looking for my identity in what I did. I worked tirelessly to help others understand who they were in Christ. The irony was that I still didn’t know who I was. God allowed me to help a lot of people despite that, but I was still searching.
As I’ve journeyed into my 30’s, hide-and-seek has been replaced with discovery of who God says I am in Him. This learning curve I’m traveling on doesn’t seem to have a final destination and after trying to steady myself onto every good and bad thing out there, I think I’m finally starting to get a grasp on my identity. It is in Christ alone.
Galatians 2:20 states, “For I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives inside of me.” What does this practically look like? I’m not really sure, but I think it means that I need to continually devour the pages of Scripture for more revelation of who my Creator says I am. I, after all, am not unlike anyone else. God created all of us for a purpose and that purpose is to bring glory to Him. I strive to look for ways to bring honor to Him in my everyday endeavors, constantly allowing the Holy Spirit to assess my motives and rebuke me when necessary.
Sometimes my old self tries to resurrect itself. And when my old life is knocking at the door, crying to get back in, I remind myself that unless these invading thoughts resemble Christ’s, then they are not my own. I have to put on the mind of Christ “and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:5). As I practice this discipline, I can more easily solve the mystery of these identity thieves and lock them out for good. I will no longer allow my identity to be stolen.
And when I serve in ministry, attend small group, go for a long run, or prepare a healthy meal for my loved ones, I have to ask myself the hard questions: Am I finding my identity in these things? On good days, I’m reassured that I’m not. And when I fall, I realize that is God’s grace keeping me from once again looking for my identity in empty temporal things.
“I found it,” I hear my voice echo out in the now empty room. I adjust the diaper bag as it slides off of my shoulder and grab the papers I need off of the side table. As I attempt to open the door with my free hand, I mentally check off my to-do list for the day. I slide in the car, juggling all of my items in tow.
I breathe a sigh of relief and mutter a prayer. I ask God to help me remember that I am complete in Him and that this day’s decisions, good and bad, don’t determine who I am. Whether they are participating in a Bible study, writing an article, reacting in anger, speaking before I think, or running a marathon, my identity is not based on what I do.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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-- Arlene Pellicane, co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
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