A few months ago, a really good friend challenged me to use this platform to talk about identity and specifically how our perception of ourselves differs from how Christ sees us and consequently, how we should see ourselves.
I balked. I felt unsure about the idea of publicly tackling the negative things I felt about myself and issuing statements about promises that are so often over-generalized and shallowly understood.
Two weeks ago, I drove to my weekly Bible study. I was upset and stressed about a loss in a ministry with which I’m involved, and I could barely concentrate during the hour and a half that our leader spoke. I had bitterly left my Bible and journal at home and sat there. It was a cry for help. I selfishly wanted someone to notice that I wasn’t myself but also wanted to shrink and disappear and be alone with my frustration and desperation.
The lesson was the first part of a two-week plunge into who we are in Christ. I remembered my friend’s challenge and thought, “Great. Now I have to write this.”
I sent her a text afterwards explaining that I hadn’t forgot her prompt, and I needed time to work on it.
I write this now, and I’m still unsure. Things seem hard. I got a call from a friend at 2 a.m. and we talked for 20 minutes about mundane things to calm down our brains. Sometimes it feels like I can barely keep my head above water. My responsibilities are rushing around me, and the best I can do is to try to not get swept away.
I feel engaged by school sometimes, and other times my interests are all over the place and it seems unrealistic to be fully engaged in one subject when the world is at my fingertips. I feel trapped in my coursework, like I should be exploring instead of studying.
I wrote in my journal last night that all my deep friendships, the relationships with people who know me, you know really, really know aren’t here in Austin. I struggled with this concept. I struggle with the immediate urge I have to share good and bad things with people whose faces I can’t immediately see.
So what do I call myself?
On my worst days, I’m alone. I’m struggling. I’m unsure and wary of what to do next and what place I have. I am depressed, as in so deeply sad that it aches to get out of bed. I look in the mirror and see unattractive and overweight. Intellectually, I am below average and inadequate. And maybe worst of all, I sometimes see myself as forgettable.
On good days, I cling to a few attributes. These are attributes I am quick to shower on my friends, because I see them so clearly in them. I am powerful, beautiful, and strong. I am happy and confident. I am anchored and rooted in who I am, where I am, and what I hope for myself.
But these things are difficult to really believe.
At this meeting of my Bible study, a small group of girls sat on couches and chairs as my leader shared Romans 8:14-17, which reads:
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
This passage was the opening words that began to work at my heart. They refuted what I was going through. Their stark contradiction to what was running through my mind bothered me. I was annoyed.
But here it is: I am a child of God and his heir. I am eternal. I do not have to be trapped in fear, because my Father and the Spirit have signed, sealed, and delivered my redemption.
At this point in the study, and often in life, I’m like, “Well, so what?”
I’m reminded of my dad, who so often gives. He gives verbal and written praise, he fills up my tank with gas when I come home to visit, and he makes me snacks. These are little examples, but I cringe when I remember in high school casting aside his offers of affection and servitude. I was embarrassed by it, or busy, or just too tired to engage. I was self-centered and rude.
So what changed? Simply, I went away and became a broke college student. In a true and more complex explanation, I went away and realized what a blessing his gifts were. I felt loved by someone constantly engaging me and checking up on me. My dad never wavered. I still receive a weekly postcard from him with the simplest updates from home. I know that this week he planted 72 pansies in the front yard and just knowing this makes me feel in the loop and continually connected to my family’s activities. I know the details, so I belong!
In this way, God pursues me. He gave me the details of his life and the life of his Son. I can be in constant communication with the maker of the universe. This concept is expanded on throughout Hebrews, notably for me in chapter 10, verses 19-22:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through the flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…”
I am richly blessed, because I get to draw near to my Savior. This is my truest self, to be chosen and holy.
I can come to him with my weaknesses, either physical, emotional, or spiritual. I rest in the comfort of Christ.
Ephesians 1 is incredible and has been changing the way I think. Here I’ll cite verses 3-10:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to use the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
God has given us every spiritual blessing, which he had planned for us before the beginning of time and will use until the fullness of time!
I am guilty of overusing the word “bless,” often in a humorous way, and I’m quick to make fun of stereotypical uses of “blessed” on social media or otherwise. But seriously, our blessings in this life are ridiculously abundant. They look different to everyone, and some have been provided for more in some areas than others. Our dispositions because of this are different, but the unity of Christians should be in our contentment. We rest in this, and we fight for those who are not content. Our universal identity is Christ working through that feeling and fight within us.
I offer myself as vessel of such unbelievable facets of information: that we are different, that we must wash the world in mercy and grace to combat so much “ungrace” and injustice, and that we can be saved.
Who do I call myself, in Christ?
I am powerful.
I am beautiful.
I am strong.
I am happy and confident.
I am anchored and rooted in who I am, where I am, and what I hope for myself.
I am content.
I am richly blessed.
I am eternal.