Category Archives: Identity and Insecurity

A Season of Socks?

I got a lot of socks this Christmas.

Socks are one of those Christmas gifts that get a lot of attention because of their disappointing nature. With the exception of something like a plunger, socks are one of the most lackluster, practical gifts you can get. When they’re in competition with literally any other gift, socks seem to lose every time. The younger the recipient, the more likely the loss.

In fact, the only reason that my privileged self was excited about getting socks this Christmas is because, at twenty-three and living in the Midwest, I see the value of keeping my feet warm. And when you work part-time for a church, socks can quickly become a luxury item that eats away at your budget.

What do socks have to do with anything? I think, and stay with me on this, that these next two months are season of getting “socks” from the Lord.

If you know me or are following the story, you know that I submitted an application that, at least at this point, the current plan for my future is dependent on. By early November, I had confirmation, on all sides, about specific, future missions work. Not only was it confirmation from the missions organization and the city’s current team, but it seemed like consistent confirmation Lord. Believe me when I say I’m ready to go. Perhaps even more than just “going,” I’m ready for clarity. I’m ready to move forward in the plans of the Lord, regardless of what they end up looking like.

But I can’t.

My hands are tied until at least the end of January, more likely the beginning of March.

There’s nothing else to process or pray about. The search for confirmation and discernment has been called off. There’s nothing else for me to do but wait. I’m living the epitome of “it’s out of my hands and all up to Jesus.”

I was praying, admittedly from a place of impatience, the other night. I found myself a little disoriented, fumbling around my Scripture reading and worship, in light of the question-heavy nature of my relationship with Jesus these past few months. All the sudden there was nothing to ask, no specific thread that needed pressing into.

This time is a gift, Maddie.

“Okay, sure. All my time with you is a gift, Lord. Times of waiting are always a gift.” I brushed it off. Believe me when I say that I’ve done seasons of waiting with the Lord before. But then again:

This time is a gift, Maddie.

Since the summer, my prayers have revolved around questions of missions and calling.

Come March 2, regardless of the outcome of the application, the reality of my life will resurface that.

But for two months, there aren’t questions driving my spiritual life. Everything is in a rhythm (or out of my hand). And here is Jesus, saying that this time is a gift.

 

It was only after a Holy-Spirit-inspired revelation, after I heard my answer to a friend’s “how are you doing” inquisition, that I got it. That I realized that He’s giving me a season of socks – and how simple that may seem, but how necessary it really is.

My answer to a simple “how are you doing” revolved around the future, my waiting, the application, and missions. It seems innocent enough but, without realizing it, I had linked what I may be doing with how I actually am. Those are two very different things, and they are both grasping for control of my soul and identity.

The reality of who I am in Christ had become dangerously muddled with what He’s leading me into. Season that force me to ask questions about work, calling, vocation, and ability run that risk. It is so easy for my identity to get tied up in my circumstances when, realistically, those are the things that I need the Lord to speak into. I know that in March the temptation will return to sync my identity with what I’m doing and what God is calling me to.

But, for two months, He’s all but removed that temptation.

He’s giving me a gift that is practical and necessary, however lackluster it may appear. I need a season, regardless of how short, of re-learning what it means to just be Jesus’. Because He loves me, is for me, and is good. Full stop.

I need to be reminded of what God thinks of me and what it means to be with Him, irrespective of anything else.

I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on this “gift of socks season.” It’s a hard sell that waiting is the greatest thing in the world. Like with socks, I appreciate them a little more than I might have five years ago, but there are other gifts that I think I’d prefer. But that’s why He’s the Giver, and I’m not.

Because what could be better, what could be more necessary, than the gift of just being His?

Stop complaining and put on the socks, Maddie. Enjoy this time of learning what it means to just be with me. To be loved by me. If my love for you never went beyond this, right here, knowing that I love you, it would be enough. I want this to be a time that you look back on when the demands are a lot, when you forget that I don’t see you as “faithful servant” first. There’s nothing that you can do these next two months, nothing you have answers to, no spectacular story to share, nothing that makes you look spiritual. So find me when you feel like you have little to give, when your faith feels small. I’ve wired your for things and set about my plans in your life, which you follow in costly obedience, but Maddie, what you were ultimately built for was just to be mine. I want to teach you about the consistency of my nature in a season where I’ve given you little else to hold onto. You may not know what I’m doing, but you know who I am. You may not know what you are doing, but know who you are. Let me remind you of exactly who you are. 

My Dual Identity

It’s one thing to say that my identity is in the Lord. It’s another to actually walk in that. It’s yet another thing to begin fully grasping at what that exactly means. Jesus has been clear in these past few weeks that there are two pieces to who I am in Him. What’s more, I so easily confuse the two; it’s humbling and convicting to realize how much of what I perceive as my identity is actually deeply rooted and a little backwards

On one hand, I am (or strive to be) the good and faithful servant. It’s the Matthew 25 or Luke 19 principle, the master’s praise to the hard-working, mindful, selfless servant. There are countless verses and stories that detail our call to obedience: to love the hurting, feed the hungry, share the Gospel, shelter the homeless, fight against injustice. To do for the least of these and imitate Christ. After all Luke 12:48 makes it clear that if we’ve been given much, much will be expected. We are called to obedience, to follow the Lord into hard things, to love our neighbors and lay down our lives. My prayer becomes “Lord, let me be faithful in all that you’ve given me” – whether big or small (which, in and of itself is really just my hierarchical perception of what “big” and “small” even mean). I want to be found faithful in my commitment to the Lord and to loving His people, regardless of the cost. And that’s a good, biblical, God-glorifying thing.

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However, when I start or end with my identity as a good and faithful servant, while partially true, I err in terms of living into who God actually and fully says that I am.

Because first and last, I am the beloved. I am only able to love because He first loved me, irrespective of anything I’ve done or deserved. I’m called beautiful and whole by the one who’s very body was broken for my redemption. It’s the childhood truth of Jesus’ love for us that comes not by anything we preempted or for anything other than the fact that He simply loves us. Except it’s not simple, because this love is deeper and stronger than we will ever comprehend; no human love even comes close to measuring the love through which God sees us. The only reason I can even think about leaning into my identity as a faithful servant is because I’m doing it out of a place of being unequivocally loved by Faithfulness Himself.

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I don’t know that the church has always done a good job at explaining the relationship between justification and sanctification, or our place as both faithful servant (sanctification) and child of God (justification). Believing that I’m simply the beloved seems to negate the command for obedience, for love of neighbor, and for service. It trivializes or minimizes everything I’ve ever done, sacrificed, or stepped into on account of the Lord. And if it doesn’t mean anything, I’m not super compelled to continue walking into costly obedience.

That’s the tension we are asked to navigate everyday – because being good and faithful servant does matter. It matters a whole lot. We please the heart of God when we walk in tandem with His Spirit. We are called to follow Him, to die to self, and care for others. However, the tension comes when we realize that we can never start with that. That can never be the whole foundation of our identity. Because if base who we are in being a good and faithful servant, we inevitably come back to a view of God’s love that makes sense, something that we control. “I know God loves me . . . after all, how could He not when I’m so clearly following Him?” It no longer becomes the whole, pervasive, inexplicable love of the Father but the kind of love we can earn, maintain, and understand. The kind of love that feels comfortable and makes us feel worthy.

I feel like the mental shift should be easy: I am beloved first, faithful servant second. Both necessitate one another. However, I think that this tension will likely take a lifetime to master. Because being beloved, for as beautiful and amazing as it is, carries with it some fearful connotations.

We know that perfect love casts out fear, but the fact of the matter is that my only concept for love is human love. For as much amazing human love as I’ve experienced, it has not been without failures, heartbreaks, and conditions. If I lean fully into the eternal, incomprehensible love of God for me, I inherently strip myself of any control. It becomes this wholehearted trust in the heart of God for me, that it will never fail or diminish. That none of how He sees me is contingent on what I do or don’t do. And even though my theology tells me that nothing can separate me from His love, the questions still seem to arise in my heart from my flawed, fleshly concept of love. Because what if I’m too messy? What if I lean into being beloved and then He gets disappointed in me? What if I’m not good enough for the Lord or He decides He doesn’t want me anymore? What does it mean if my obedience isn’t changing His view of me, isn’t earning me more favor in His sight?

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He’s pleased with me as His faithful servant, but He loves me as simply His daughter.

I think that’s a dichotomy worth wresting with, since it has everything to do with who we are, how we approach life, ministry, and the posture with which we go before God. I’ll probably be wrestling with it for the rest of my life.

When I Said Your Glory, Not Mine. . .did I mean it?

Y’all, it’s honesty time. Something came up in the past few days where I should’ve gotten credit and didn’t. It wasn’t even a big deal. But as soon as I realized that everyone was going to be celebrating something without knowing that I was the sweet, caring, eloquent, thoughtful, spiritual one behind it, a little bitterness surfaced in my heart. It didn’t take me very long to realize the bitterness was actually insecurity.

Insecurity, that sneaky thing, has crept up a lot on me lately. I’ll write more about the feelings of inadequacy that have come up later, but long story short I’ve been letting some of the events in my life affect the way I view my value. I just wanted to be recognized because my heart has been searching for proof that I am enough, that I am worth loving. I’m humbled (and hurt) to admit this, but I think it’s why, at least subconsciously, I haven’t been as faithful in praying for others as I have been in the past. I’ve been seeking things that have the potential to give me validation – wanting to be seen listening to people in public places or writing them signed notes. Anonymous letters and times in intercession aren’t seen, and if they aren’t seen, I can’t be praised for them. If I can’t be praised for them, they can’t affirm my identity. And I need my identify affirmed. . .

. . .when I’m not returning to a place of security in Jesus. Ouch.

But it’s in this place, as I look into the windows of my soul, seeing the brokenness and insecurity that so often creeps back in, I come to find, yet again, that He is enough. As my flesh continues to demand other lovers to appease its pride, my soul fights to be known in Christ alone. Because when I see that my God is enough, I realize that, in His eyes, so am I. I don’t have to prove to Jesus that I’m worth loving; He simply loves me with an everlasting love that will overwhelm my weary soul (Jeremiah 31:2-5). That is, if I’ll let it.

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So, I say this to everyone out there fighting the fleshly pride welling up inside. . .

To the one who has spent hours on your knees in prayer, knowing those you were lifting up will never see the tears, the words, or the time. . .know that He heard you and His heart was moved.

To the one who has sent anonymous letters or provision in an act of obedience, knowing that it will not be credited to your identity nor be fuel praise. . .know that He is pleased with you.

To the one who enters into one-sided relationships with both grace, knowing you’ll always give more than you receive and rarely see fruit from your investment. . .know that He lavishes even greater grace upon you.

To the one who chooses to do thankless jobs with joy, knowing that your labor, sacrifice, and heart will never be recognized. . .know that He saw you with delight.

To the one who chooses to die to self, even if it means going unnoticed, unthanked, and unappreciated. To the one who prefers others, even when it means letting personal dreams die. To the one who doesn’t fight insecurity with pride or seek validation from praise, but rather seeks security in the love of Christ.  To the one who prays “all the glory and honor to You alone, Lord” with a humility and honesty that cannot be mustered by any human strength.

To you I say thank you. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you for depending more on Him than you do on your own ability to be faithful. Thank you for every prayer, tear, letter, job, and care. Thank you for daily choosing to become more like Jesus and less like your flesh.

I may not see it. You don’t always see me.

But that’s actually the best news because it means that He alone does. He increases, we decrease. He gets the glory. Forever and ever, amen.

 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Don’t Be Harder on Yourself Than Jesus Is

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a year ago, on the docks in Chicago

Everything comes full circle. I titled this post almost a year ago and then saved the blank draft, hoping the words in my head would translate onto the page over the next few days. They never did. But after weeks of a relentless attack on my identity, I think I get what I was feeling before. What everyone sort of feels all the time. And now that I’m journaling again, I have some words for it. . .

We all live under some weight of insecurity.

It’s the nature of fallen humanity. There’s a fine line between being confident versus being cocky, knowing there are areas you need to improve versus focusing only on your weaknesses. We don’t measure up, to our expectations of ourselves or to other’s expectations of us; but when we do it goes to our head and arrogance seeps in.

The other night the weight of this insecurity was heavier than it’s ever been – even more than my dreaded middle school years. I don’t really know why or how the whole thing gets spiraling, but realizing that I couldn’t name 5 things about myself that defined me, or at least, not ones that I was actually believing in the core of my being, I decided to make a list. I went through letters of encouragement, I flipped through Scriptures of truth, and I commanded my heart to accept the truth of who I am. It’s never enough to stop believing all the things you are not; it’s not enough to just get rid of the lies. Your spirit must be re-filled with truth, otherwise the insecurity continues to fill those open places in your heart.

Who am I? I am. . .

Fill in the blank for yourself. Continue filling it in. Go deeper than the Bible study answer. You are a child of the Living God, but within that you are a unique, individual, gifted, called, purposed, and redeemed human being. What makes you, YOU? Why did He make you, YOU? Remind yourself the details of who He is and how that defines who you are.

The point is that I am, because I’m created in the image of the Great I AM.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” ” Exodus 3:14

Let me say that again:

I am –enough, loved, genuine, wise, compassionate, loving, pensive, open, thoughtful, fun, passionate, gentle, sweet, unique, creative– because He IS and I’m created in His image. I don’t see myself correctly when I’m not seeing Him. I am a broken, fragmented, incomplete reflection of Christ’s nature, which means I have a heck of a lot of areas to grow. But nothing spurs that growth on more than the penetrating knowledge of the love and grace of Jesus and the deep confidence that produces.

There’s too much insecurity because there are too many lies. They are in what I hear, what I see, and what I think. All the things I’m not, all the things I should’ve done different, all the places I’ve failed. Jesus doesn’t call me a failure, so what makes me think I can call myself one (John 15:15, Romans 15:7, 2 Corinthians 5:17)? Jesus doesn’t condemn me, so why do I think it’s ok to condemn myself (Romans 8:1)?

For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. . .in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:4, 7)

None of that sounds like the lectures the culture, the Enemy, and my own expectations lay on me. None of that fits with insecurity. Yes, if you walk with Christ then you are called to active obedience and sanctification. Yes, that means uncomfortable growth and humility. But let’s not live under added weight of insecurity because we are afraid we are disappointing Jesus.

I am. . .His and because He is.