"Well. It's nice, it's just not really... you. "
I was showing my mom a Christmas present- the first Christmas present I'd ever received from a boy. My sixteen-year-old self was annoyed by the comment that the necklace wasn't really my style.
Not "me?" The gaudy rhinestone-studded letter A wasn't "me?" Not possible. My boyfriend had given it to me, so I liked it. I liked the necklace, really. Really, I did. Sort of.
The truth, although I couldn't admit it at the time, was that I didn't like that necklace. My mom was right-- it wasn't something I'd typically wear. But I wore that glittery thing all the time, until the relationship ended (as it was sure to do), and it went into a box and was later donated to a second-hand store.
That necklace was a good representation of the relationship, really. Something I didn't actually want, that didn't actually fit me, but I was going to try really hard to like it.
... ... ...
The gray concrete buildings were closing in on me.
Everything was gray. The sky, the city streets that once seemed so exciting to me, the feeling crept into the very soul of the place. February in Chicago was made of chill and puddles and suffocating gray.
Too many people and too much noise and too much... stuff. Just stuff. Everywhere.
I found myself longing to see a horizon- to rest my eyes on empty white fields and wide open spaces.
But that couldn't be right. I'd spent the last four years complaining about those cornfields, the rural emptiness of it all. Chicago for college was the perfect choice for me- city, adventure, people. I was going to teach in an inner city school and really make a difference.
February in Chicago wasn't sitting so well with me, and slowly, the dreams I'd built up didn't feel so much like dreams. They felt more like prisons of expectations that I'd created for myself. Because if I wasn't this city-dwelling education activist, then who was I?
... ... ...
Years later, I stormed around my little house, frustrated.
It was messy, and I was mad.
Blowing up at my husband, I ranted about the state of our little house- the socks! the crumbs! the unfolded laundry piles and the unwashed dishes! "We don't have children," I shouted. "There is no reason that we can't have a nice home!"
He waited, and then cautiously asked, why now? Why was I so mad all the sudden? It had taken a week for the house to get messy, but it didn't bother me yesterday when I watched a movie rather than tidy up.
"I am a failure in too many ways! I can't do anything right!" It flew out of my mouth before I knew I was saying it. I stopped in my tracks, a little stunned.
It didn't have anything to do with cleaning my house. The real source of my tantrum was feeling bad, not about my house, but about me.
And I didn't like that. Not one bit.
... ... ...
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I am learning (slowly), that many of the issues in my life, many of the choices that I've made, have come from a place of insecurity.
I don't know who I am.
It's not an uncommon issue, from what I see of the world.
Lack of identity is the thread that weaves its way through a myriad of struggles. From lying to pornography to murder, from anger to shyness to keeping quiet when we should speak, our identities shape our behavior.
Where do we get our identities from?
I've answered that question in many different ways, throughout my few years.
I've found identity in my boyfriend, in my plans for the future, in my capabilities, in the way I plan, in the things I do (and the things I don't do). I've found identity in my role in my family and in my role at work.
But the trouble is, all those things are fleeting.
What happens when the relationship ends or the future turns out much differently that I expected? When I fail at that thing or my plans get all messed up? When my roles change, when I lose the job?
Each of us is shaped by so many things- from our birth order to our personality traits, experiences we gain (good and bad), talents, geography, our choices... identity is complicated.
Sometimes it seems like we're pieced together- little bits of this and that make up the "self," and eventually, our lives will stretch in front of us like a patchwork quilt. But when pieces are removed, torn, worn out, our quilts get messy, frayed, and even destroyed. It doesn't last.
Who am I, then?
It turns out, the answer to that question was right in front of me all the time. The Bible has the answer.
And it might be the most powerful thing of which I can take hold.
I am in Christ.
In the book The Good and Beautiful Life (recommended. highly recommended), one theme is presented. Who you are and where you live are the two narratives that change your heart, your behavior, and ultimately, your life.
Who you tell yourself you are is what changes your life.
I'm learning. I'd like to say that gone are the days of questioning my worth and finding my identity in things that don't last-- but I still do it. Daily, even. But I'm learning. And I'm repeating:
Q: Who am I?
A: I am one in whom Christ dwells.
And that means I'm a new creation, I'm found righteous, I'm constantly being renewed to be more like Him, I'm alive, I'm indwelt by Someone who is greater than the world.
The Bible has the answer to the pressing question of my heart. I know who I am because the Bible tells me so (over and over and over again).
I just have to read, listen, and believe it.
The Bible is a transforming thing, changing the way I live and the way I respond and the way I see the world. Perhaps most importantly, the Bible changes the way I see myself. And that changes everything.
Anger, lying, greed... they all stem from this lack of identity. Reorienting myself to who I really am, to who God says I am in His Word, affects my life in each of these areas, in powerful ways.
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