I remember the first time that I came face to face with the uncomfortable fact that I didn’t actually know who I was. There we were, a group of nine or ten women, including the pastor’s wife, gathered together at church for an evening book club.
The book was, Hiding From Love, by John Townsend, and we were answering one of the thought-provoking questions that came at the end of each chapter. At first glance it didn’t seem too difficult; it simply asked, “What do you like to do?”
But as I listened to the various answers of the women around me I realized that besides reading mysteries and taking bubble baths, I really didn’t know. I’d never thought about what I liked. I simply did what a mother of seven kids needed to do to get from one day to the next.
A familiar sensation of anxiety rose up in me as it became my turn to share. I began babbling about loving color and beauty and how both elements played a part in my enjoyment in decorating my home. Which is all true and as I had recently finished a color consultant course seemed applicable…but wasn’t.
The deeper truth that I faced was that I felt vulnerable and I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have anything besides what I did as a wife and homeschooling mother that I enjoyed doing. What was wrong with me?
It wasn’t that I felt ashamed about being a stay-at-home mom. I loved my role and I deeply appreciated the support of my husband who worked hard to make that possible.
But in attempting to answer the question it seemed as though that in addition to not knowing what I liked I was also seeing that there were lots of other things I didn’t know about who I was either.
There’s a quote I like by Elizabeth Elliot that says, “Do the next thing.” The simplicity of moving forward step-by-step without worrying about what comes afterwards is appealing. However, living well requires doing each next thing fully, intentionally present.
But I had been living my whole life by mindlessly jumping from task to task. I was so absorbed in the job at hand, and there was always another one or two or dozen clamoring for my attention, that I hadn’t left any room for just being.
As I drove home that night I realized that the seemingly straightforward question had started an avalanche of even more questions with the worst one being, “Who am I?”
If I took away everything I did and all of the roles that I used to define myself: wife, homeschool mom, and even Christian, what was left?
I had an uneasy feeling that the answer was, not much. Never being prone to much self-examination, I allowed the probing thoughts about my identity to drift away as soon as possible.
I now know with the benefit of hindsight that I was grappling with much weightier issues than that of my personhood; I was struggling with who I was in Christ.
Occasionally I wondered if there would be any me left, if, or hopefully, when, I became more Christlike. I knew that being like Christ was supposed to be my goal, and it was. But for the most part it remained a far away, somewhat nebulous prospect; awesome if it happened but not something I was counting on.
My lifelong habit of performing what was in front of me out of duty, extended to Christian service, both public and private, causing me to forget or be unaware of, who I was serving. There’s not much joy in endlessly performing out of a sense of obligation and my inner life reflected that sad fact.
God, in His wisdom and love, has used hard places and even harder truths to break through walls of self-deception that I had been believing and functioning in since childhood. These lies had clouded my perception of God and prevented me from truly seeing Him as my loving Father.
I have learned that I can choose to be defined by my weaknesses or in the promises of Christ, especially His amazing love for me.
Because I no longer allow the need to prove to myself or anyone else, especially God, that I am worthy, the pressure to perform constantly has lessened. When it does reappear, I’m recognizing it for what it is more quickly and learning to deal with it through asking and receiving forgiveness from the Lover of My Soul.
As my heart expands in grateful response to His love, my confidence in His ability to transform me grows as well.
“…and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:69 (ESV) (Italics mine.)
I’ve transitioned from hoping, working, and wanting to be loved by Jesus to knowing that I am…and this has changed everything!