I’ve recently been forced to come to the realization that I’ve been finding my identity in my accomplishments and the qualities that I think I possess.
I allowed myself to “become” my various titles: I’m a mother, therefore, I am nurturing, encouraging, and loving. I’m a missionary, so I am passionate for God and people. I’m a manager, so I am a servant-leader, mentor, organizer, and driving force. Hah!
Wrong! I am not those things. I never have been. I can put on each persona, like a hat, but that doesn’t make me any different.
Those are roles I fulfill, but they are not me, and who I am. And I was wrong to derive my sense of self from the various roles I perform. I can be all of those things without confusing myself with my title, but I didn’t. The sad part is that at one time, I knew better.
I thought I had learned to be only who God says I am. I would speak, out loud, over myself the Bible verses that talk about my identity as God’s child and follower of Jesus.
But somewhere along the way, I allowed myself to believe the myth that “we are what we do,” and “we’re only as good as our latest achievement.” As if my performance somehow added value to me as a person.
With the discovery that I’m not who I thought, the image I had of myself crumbled around me. What I thought were my abilities, and, therefore, my sense who I am and what I’m capable of, dissolved, like a ripple-effect fade-out in a cheesy movie. But instead of switching to a different scene, what was left was a confused, blurry image of a person who was no longer sure of herself, what she’s meant to do, or what she’s able to do.
Over the past weeks, I’ve felt worthless and very confused. I am so thankful for my dear family! They have been so loving and supportive. I have been more than reassured that they love me unconditionally, and that they are not swayed by any outer facade. They have helped to remind me of my innate worth as a person made in the image of God.
As unpleasant as this time has been, it has led me to not only re-examine where I derive my self-image from, but to also sift through the rubble and find the foundation. I thought my foundation was built on God’s unchanging love, but somewhere along the way, I began to build on the shifting sands of society’s standards, which by their very nature change over time.
Am I worth less because I don’t succeed, accomplish, or perform to an arbitrary standard? Not according to God, who has said I’m worth more to Him than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. He has numbered the hairs of my head and caught all of my tears. A re-reading of Psalm 139 is a good reminder of the intimacy with which God knows and loves us.
It’s been good for me to have this ‘false self’ stripped away. Brennan Manning called it the Impostor. It’s the mask we create for ourselves to hide behind, and supposedly fool others into believing that’s what we’re really like. Only we also think we’re hiding from God, either never knowing or forgetting that God sees the ‘real’ person all along, and still loves us unrepentantly.
“God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” [Abba's Child by Manning]
Thank the Lord for His reminder that I am His beloved child.
It’s not about what I do, or what I accomplish. That’s not who I am.
I am a sinner saved by the outrageous grace of an infinitely loving God. I am someone who makes mistakes. But because of God’s mercy, they aren’t fatal.
“But God loves who we really are – whether we like it or not.” [ibid.]
If you’d like to read Psalm 139, I’m including it here:
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me