Connect with us


Identity Lessons on the Red Gravel Trail

Our identity can only survive the lies of this world when it rests firmly upon the blood-bought truth of another.

Spread the love



I could hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of someone behind me. I turned to offer a courtesy nod to the passing hiker. A trim, perfectly coiffed blond smiled. Nodding at my four children ahead and my littlest one in tow, she exclaimed, “Wow! Are all these children yours?”

“Yes,” I smiled — used to the question by now. “They sure are.”

“My goodness! Do you all come here often?”

“No, but today is a special day,” spilled out.

Her inquisitive look begged a more thorough response.

I sighed. I wrestled. I gulped. I chose honesty. “Our son passed away nine years ago,” I said of our beautiful boy, Leyton. “On this day, we try to do something he might have enjoyed.” I smiled again trying to ease the discomfort of an awkward topic.

A terrified, familiar look crossed her face. “I’m sorry for your loss.” Just as abruptly, her face brightened to forced cheerfulness and she motioned towards our crew, “Well, it looks like you more than made up for it.”

Though not a newly expressed sentiment, it’s one that still stings. I hope it always will.

“Thank you,” I said, opting for as much grace as I could muster. “They are all so unique and each such a blessing.” I tousled my 2-year old’s chestnut hair. My Annie’s face glowed in the amber light of the sunset.

And off our fellow hiker hiked.

What remained was a subtle lie. My 11-year old was quick to spot it. “Mom, is it true that Annie makes up for Leyton being gone?”

Her question struck to the heart of her own identity. “Can I be easily replaced? Does it matter that I am here. Am I just another warm body on this earth?”

I attacked the lie like a pit-bull after meat. God saw us and knit our bodies together in the womb. He knows when we sit, stand up, and lie down. He even knows the words on our tongues before we say them. He counts every hair on our head and every heartache we feel. Far from being replaceable entities that fill another’s perception of a desirable quota, we are personally beloved, individually bought with a price, always seen and engraved on the palm of His hands.

How can we believe otherwise when He has sent His own son to rescue us from sin and destruction — including the destruction of such penetrating lies?

I breathed in the truth with the mountain air and breathed out, “We know and believe the truth no matter what the rest of the world thinks. Right, sweetheart?”

“Right, Mom!”

We continued crunch, crunch, crunching along the red, gravel trail.

Identity Lessons on the Red Gravel RoadNot too much further came a young couple with their dog. Very fit and intent on keeping their pace. They barely looked up. When they did, they didn’t attempt to hide a smirk. You know. The kind you often see when you dare bring a child into an upscale coffee establishment where everyone is professionally, frenetically working away (Nothing against coffee establishments or frenetically working, mind you.). A look flavored with a shot of pure annoyance.

Their message was loud and clear. “Don’t bother us. Don’t get in our way.”

The world often labels our presence and certainly our struggles a source of irritation. But Scripture continuously speaks of a God who counts both an opportunity for a closer relationship.

As the last slivers of gold sunk behind the mountain crest, a bicyclist flew by. His speed was impressive. So was his sweat. I’m not even sure he saw us. The obvious comparison illustrating a world racing past both our significance and our need.

And yet, Jesus beckons. “Come to me. Be with me. I will give you rest. I will heal your wounds. I will delight in you. I will tell you who you really are.”

Our identity can only survive the lies of this world when it rests firmly upon the blood-bought truth of another one. Truth we must believe and live for ourselves. Truth we must teach and model for our children.

I love what priest and author Henri Nouwen wrote, “The truth is that God loves us, has loved us from all eternity and holds us safe. God has molded us in the depths of the earth, has knitted us together in our mother’s womb, and we really belong in God’s arms. In that embrace, we can hear again and again, ‘You are my beloved daughter. You are my beloved son. You are my beloved child.'”

Wonderful truths that melted into reality when we finished our hike and arrived at our favorite ice cream shop. There, waiting for a vanilla cone, was the gentle, kind face of a man with Down syndrome.

Unspeakable, pure, one-of-a-kind beauty at the end of the day’s road.

Spread the love

Julie Neils is passionate about living a real life in a fabricated world. Digging beneath the surface in her relationship with God and with others is the thing that gets her up out of bed. That and fussy little ones. And a big ol’ cup of coffee. As a media relations and branding consultant, she has spent more than fifteen years advising ministry leaders, policy makers and authors on relevant, out-of-the-box communications strategies. She and her husband, Brian, live in the Rocky Mountains where she homeschools their five kiddos.

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.

So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!

Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor

Get Our Free Ebook!

Sign up to receive weekly emails from Ungrind and you’ll get the free ebook, Better Together. Be encouraged by stories of hope from women just like you!

Latest Articles

What Women Are Saying

"The women who contribute to Ungrind are full of wisdom and heart. With stunning images, thoughtful writing, and a simple layout, this is a lovely place to visit and breathe deep."

-- Emily P. Freeman, author of Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life

Featured Resource

"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


We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.



Identity Lessons on the Red Gravel Trail

by Julie Neils time to read: 4 min