On Identity

Today I ran 3 miles, and this is what I looked like at the end. And these weren’t fast miles, these were grueling I-think-I-might-die-this-is-so-slow miles. Pre-pregnancy, I would have whipped these out like it was no big deal, yet now I am so out of shape. Let me be honest and say that this is discouraging. I never realized that this ability was something I prided myself in; something that I felt made me who I am. This realization hit me one day last week while I was running dying, and all I could think was “dear God, don’t let anyone I know see this”. Being in shape was just another silly item on a long list of things that I felt made me who I am, where my identity lied. I can’t help but wonder why it is so hard to let go of past expectations and to settle into a new you? When we go through a major life change (or a not so major change), such as having a baby, or getting a new job, or getting married, or starting at a new school, or fill in the blank here, we are often left wondering “who am I now?” Somewhere in the midst of all of the change, we suddenly realize that this thing we are letting go of somehow became our identity. This thing was our defining factor. So we struggle, we cry, we raise our fists, all because we no longer know who we are. But life doesn’t have to be this way; we don’t have to walk through life constantly looking for something or someone – whether that be running, or our husbands, or our job, or fill in the blank here – to tell us who we are.

As a new mom, we are constantly saying things like:

“I just don’t feel like myself”

“I want to be known as more than just a mother”

“I don’t feel pretty/sexy/cute”

“All I ever do is take care of the baby”

I know I’ve been guilty of saying things like this; don’t get me wrong, transitioning into a role where you are responsible for keeping another human alive is hard. However, I can’t help but think that we make this even harder on ourselves by failing to recognize where our worth and identity should be coming from. When we place our value and the weight of who we are on people, roles, or things, we are setting ourselves up for a life of hurt and discontentment. We were not made to live a life defined by other people or worldly things. We were created to find our value and worth in our Creator. Ladies, let me just confess right here that I am preaching to the choir. The Lord is constantly showing me layers upon layers of false identity in my life – from my role as a teacher, to being a good wife, to having the ability to run far distances, and on and on and on. How do I know this? Because I find myself being consistently stressed or disappointed in these areas, no matter what they look like. I feel unloved if my husband doesn’t pay what I feel is enough attention to me (and if you know Z, you know he is pretty much the most attentive husband that has ever existed). I feel unproductive because I am no longer a teacher. I feel embarrassed because I’m not as in shape as I used to be. When we find ourselves discontent in multiple areas of our lives, maybe the issue isn’t our circumstances…. maybe the issue is us.

So what do we do about this? How can we fix this? I can’t say for sure, but here are three things I am trying to do:

-Reset your focus. If we aren’t in the Word, how can we ever expect to center our worth on who God says we are? Simply put: we can’t. Listen y’all, I know this can be a struggle. We’re all busy, and there’s never enough time in the day. But if we want to live content and full lives, meeting with our Creator has got to quit being the first thing that goes when life gets crazy.

-Become a servant. If we feel unproductive and directionless because we don’t know what our role is in this world, then maybe we should start finding ways to serve others. Write a sweet note to your husband each day, send a kind text to a friend, volunteer in your community. I’ve found that when we spend our time focusing on making others feel important, we suddenly feel more valuable as well.

-Give yourself a break. If you’ve just gone through some sort of life change (or if you went through a life change 6 years ago and still haven’t gotten it all figured out) – or if you just don’t feel like yourself these days – then take a deep breath. We aren’t expected to figure everything out right away, and we sure aren’t expected to be perfect. We have a God who even cares for the birds and the lilies; I think He’s more than capable of caring for us.

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