Sometimes I’m just doing my thing, living life and God reaches down and gives me a very clear message in a sort of strange place. Tonight wasn’t so strange. I was leading my small group of 7th grade girls. The lesson was one about identity. What made it strange is that the intended audience for the talk was preteens and here I am at 41 going, “Thank you God. I needed to hear that.”
As a mom, I often struggle with identity. I still remember my first year as a stay at home mom feeling like a spoiled brat because something I wanted for so long didn’t fulfill me the way I imagined it would. Part of that is because I had romanticized being home full time, but a bigger part had to do with identity. Like it or not, most of my identity at the time was wrapped up in my career. And even though I made the decision to stay home, that change left me feeling like I didn’t know myself.
I’ve officially been away from my job for seven years, but the identity struggle still pops up from time to time. A few years back, I decided to try to write a book. That changed a few things. When I had spare time, I looked forward to diving into the characters and story. Suddenly, I had this thing that I was excited about that had nothing to do with my identity of being a mom. But that identity came with some pressures too. People often asked when I was going to get it published. I felt a lot of pressure to live the life of a full-time writer in the 1-2 hours a week I could sit down to write. Don’t misunderstand me, this journey has presented me with so many blessings. But just like anything else, leaning into that identity isn’t ever going to fulfill me.
Lately, I’ve been teaching again. My kids are home for school three days a week and it’s been fun and challenging to put on the teacher identity once more. (Not that as a parent you ever take that one off.) But, suddenly I begin to feel that pressure to throw my whole self into my kids’ schooling that I’m once again struggling with identity.
I was reminded tonight that my identity is in Christ. I’m a child of God. And while this wasn’t new, it still felt like news. I couldn’t help looking around the room of young girls thinking, my God is speaking to me right now. This talk is meant for them, but He’s speaking to me.
The problem with having my identity wrapped up in these worldly things is they are terrible gods. These “gods”: will never fulfill us, they can be taken away in a heartbeat, and they’re all about us.
I touched on this earlier, but think of anything you’ve chased. When you got the promotion or the PR or the new house, they didn’t satisfy. Instead of arriving, happiness felt like the horizon always receding just as you approach it.
Talk to any athlete and they’ll tell you they’re afraid of injury and not because it’ll hurt but because all they’ve worked for can be taken away in an instant and that’s terrifying. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty good argument against putting my faith in something so fickle.
One of the biggest problems with seeking identity from earthly things, is they tend to be all about us. We become obsessed with our performance and reputation and before we know it, we’ve made it all about us, but, if we can get this right, we can make it all about Him. Leaning into my true identity as a child of God takes the pressure off. I don’t have to be perfect because He loves me no matter what. I know this is simple stuff. In fact, it’s more akin to something my preschooler would learn instead of my 7th grader, but sometimes the more simple the truth is, the harder it is to grasp.
I love writing and I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything. God gave me these things to enjoy and use as a tool to point others to Him. They’re good things. But when those things become the thing, everything is off.
If you’re feeling a little off right now, maybe it’s about identity. Take a minute to think about the things you’re chasing. Are they gods or is it God?