Tag Archives: who am I

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.

Crying in a Coffee Shop

The other day one of my roommates and I were sitting at Blackberry Market, our post 2:00 class decision to hang out and pretend to do homework. It’s like the Holy Spirit decided to meet me in the midst of the lemonade I’d been craving all day and a rainy day coffee shop. Why He chooses these moments, I’ll never know. As conversation topics rolled into reading a devotional together, the tears quickly surfaced. What the heck. I promise, I don’t plan on crying as often as I do. It’s not like I plan to have these heart-to-hearts with Jesus and the people in my life, they just kind of happen. Pretty soon we were both crying and laughing and sharing the hot cinnamon roll in front of us.

After our verbal processing session, a quick run to Target, and some literal running on the indoor track of our gym, I went to drive my car back to our apartment only to find that my key wouldn’t unlock the car. The unlock button wouldn’t work and I couldn’t get the key to turn in the door. What the heck. . .again. I found myself on a long walk back to my apartment to get the other set of keys. A long, rainy, cold walk to the apartment and then back to the car. A walk through puddles that I’m pretty sure could be classified as small sized ponds. My sneakers are still wet y’all. Needless to say, the Lord and I had a pretty honest conversation through the rain and my chattering teeth. To give you a glimpse into the state of my heart last night, I may or may not have said out loud: “well maybe Your plan for me is to just get hypothermia from being out here and then I’ll die. At least then I don’t even have to worry about any of this stuff you are asking me to deal with! I wouldn’t have to wrestle with questions of who I am or have to trust you with my future. And I wouldn’t be wet or cold anymore!”

Did I mention that I don’t ever plan for these things to happen to me? They just kind of do, leaving me shaking my head and sometimes my fists but always marveling at the means the Lord uses to draw me back to Himself.

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These moments didn’t lead to some profound realization. They were just simple, unplanned moments where I met the Lord. Moments where He revealed pieces of my heart that I hadn’t been willing to look at. I realized that old fears had resurfaced. Old identity issues had came back up. There were things I thought that I’d worked through, until the Enemy snuck them back in and I’m reminded yet again of the lifelong battle that we fight.

It’s nothing new. These questions of am I enough? And more than that, is Jesus enough?

Am I enough in the midst of my sins and recurring struggles? The circumstances I can point to where I’ve obviously failed in loving the people around me? The ways I’ve failed to guard my thoughts and submit my desires for sanctification in the Lord? Am I enough for the things He’s calling me to that I feel incredibly unprepared for?

But then again. . .is He enough for the uncomfortable, challenging things He calls me to? Enough for the moments when I feel painfully alone? Enough for the sins that, despite the disciplines and fighting on my part, seem to have no problem resurfacing? Enough for every hope and desire of my heart?

Obviously, I know the answer to every one of those questions. I’m guessing you do too. I know the Scripture that combats every one of the questions. But just because I know doesn’t mean that I won’t forget. It doesn’t mean that I don’t need these moments in a coffee shop or in the rain where the Lord reminds me of who I am and who He is. It doesn’t mean I’m falling apart or that I’ve somehow failed Him again. It means I’m human. It means I’m in need of His grace. It means I’m still living in a broken world where the Enemy can still lie to me. It means there will never be a day where I don’t need to proclaim truth to my heart.

The truth that I am beloved. He is for me. He is near me. He is enough.

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. 

Don’t forget: where you came from

I am from the back porch basking in the hot Georgia sun, from my journals and teen Bible quizzes.

I am from conversations around the kitchen table and the smell of coffee in the morning.

I am from the side-yard tree we tried to climb, whose weak arms never failed to hold us up.

I am from matching dresses and sparkly dance costumes, from MacMaths and Dixons, and from “buddy” and “double buddy” hand piles, followed by laughter. From my dad’s scratchy kisses when he forgot to shave.

I am from happy birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas, from biscotti and pitcels, from the fair where ggpa and ggma met, and from the boat ride into Ellis Island. My mustard yellow blanket with angels sowed onto the sides. . .

I am from the moments where we always say “yes, my Lord.”

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We did this poem in my Art Survey class and it reminded me of something the Lord has been bringing up in my time with Him. Remembering. I’m working through reading some of the old journals I brought and highlighting the Lord’s faithfulness, goodness, and power in the overarching story of my life thus far. But as I contemplated these deeper, spiritual things, I was reminded of what I came from.

The many Clemson spring games. The waking up on Christmas morning. The pumpkin carving and dyeing easter eggs. Riding bikes, which we pretended were horses, in the cul-de-sac. Getting ready for dance competitions or cleaning out my dance bag. The talks alone in the car with my mom before church. The candy on Mrs. Clarke’s desk when we started homeschooling. The keyboard that played the theme song from Titanic. The many times we pulled out of the driveway, headed on a road-trip.

All of it is a part of me. All of it changed me. And some of it led to negative beliefs or expectations or memories that are being redeemed by the grace of God. But all of it is a stepping stone to right now, sitting in my dorm room, windows open (it got up to 50, y’all), waiting to go to brunch and then Chicago with a friend. And when I turn around, every moment of my time at Wheaton will be passed, and I won’t forget all that I’ve gained and learned and loved here.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday last night, it hit me that I turn 20 in December. And as I was trying to wrap my head around that crazy age, I began thinking of all that I haven’t done, things that I would’ve expected by 20. But somewhere along the line, the things I “missed out on” turned into thinking about the life I’ve lived. Even when people ask about freshmen year and I think of all the challenges and struggles this year has brought, I wouldn’t change a moment of it. I am not the same person I was when I came. I am not the same person in any of those pictures. But it’s because of every moment lived, it is because of the never-ending love of Jesus, that I am here and changed and filled with joy.

It’s an incredible thing – to contemplate where you came from and how the Lord orchestrated the moments of your life. Here’s the poem template to get you started.

Have a beautiful Saturday!