Identity crisis: part 1
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
It doesn’t take long for circumstances to change.
You wake up one morning, and you realize things are different than they were from some other part of your life. And it’s not a bad thing–it’s just a different thing.
One day you have a child clinging to your leg wanting dinner, and the next minute.. (or so) he is driving himself home from basketball practice. And it’s that blink-of-an-eye experience that causes you to view time as transient. Time is just where we are now in relation to where we have been and where we are going. But it’s nothing. and everything. but really nothing.
And if our identity.. that elusive thing that causes us to have any level of self awareness.. is something as shifting as the wind, or time itself.. we probably have misplaced something in our priority cycle.
Simply put– we don’t have it right.
Who are we… already?? Who am I? Do you know who you are?
If you had asked me that as recently as a year ago, I would have answered this way:
I am an organizing mommy.
And it would have encompassed all that I think goes into that. I am a wife, a mommy, a busy mommy of five kids.. and then listed in order everything that I do to make my life “happen”.. and of course, the defining crown over it all would be: a Christian.
And that’s not bad. I’ve made some good choices in this life. But my choices for better or worse.. are not my identity. My wife status, my mothering, my homeschooling, my organizing, or pilates teaching.. do not define me. They do not cause my identity to happen.
Am I saying that I don’t want to identify with these excellent things? Am I somehow embarrassed by them? No. and not at all. I do identify with them very strongly. But they do not make me who I am.
Let’s take the obvious.
At times, in my past, the identification with this role has reached the level of idolatry for me. I can’t put my finger on when or how it happened. Was it an over-correction of where the world falls short? Was it just my justification for not pursuing a career, so I needed some job title? I’m not even sure. As much as I enjoy fulfilling this role, it is just that–a role. But if my entire identity is wrapped up in this, what happens when a death of a spouse or (God forbid) a divorce happens? Am I shattered as a person.. forever?? Or what if I am just unhappy as a wife? What if I’ve made a bad decision and I’m stuck with it? Then what? And what about the other 85% of the world who are not happily married wives? Do they feel like second-class citizens in my presence because I have elevated this role to idolatry? (probably they do..?) Alas. I need much growth, Lord.
If being a wife did not reach full-scale idolatry, certainly being a mother has. Yes, we in the Christian community celebrate motherhood. We are making up for the scores of media messages out there demeaning this wonderful role. But have we, in the process, damaged ourselves because of it? If ever there was a precarious precipice to place your identity, the motherhood pinnacle reaches unprecedented heights. And why not? Let’s celebrate what the world cuts down, right? Except.. ugh. The child misbehaves, dishonors, disobeys.. or is just a human (in any way) it is a direct reflection of us and our identity!! Wow! Can you imagine being a child in a family where the mother’s entire self esteem rested on her perfect children?? I shudder at the thought of it. And let’s not even go into issues like: teen rebellion, drug abuse, criminal activity, divorced children, etc. etc. And what about death? Children die. Children make decisions. They are little humans. And they become big humans who are capable of making decisions that are very different from the way you would do it. And then what? Are you shattered for life because everything you had was wrapped up in being a mother?
A homeschooling mommy.
This is the one area of my life where I can say that is changing, and perhaps.. that is the impetus for this discussion. I’m starting to realize that too much of my mothering was wrapped up in this precious gift/ calling of being a homeschooling mommy. When something is all consuming, such as homeschooling, it is so easy to get the cart before the horse. Did homeschooling fuel my identity? absolutely. Did I see that as bad? no. It’s what I do. But it’s not who I am. If it were my entire identity, I would cease to exist since my journey is basically on its tail end. Did I live it? breathe it? enjoy it? thrive on it? absolutely!! It was a precious time. But I exist beyond that.
These are hard concepts to get my own head around, and I am not even sure that I am communicating it properly. I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I am throwing caution to the wind and disrobing myself of my precious roles. Actually, it is just the opposite. I am finding my identity so that whatever roles I find myself in, whether presently or in the future, will be grounded in true greatness.
And I know that you know where I am going with this. Our identity needs to be in Christ. But I’m not going directly there. We’re taking the circuitous route. And here’s why: it looks different for each person. Identity in Christ is possibly for anyone, but it does not look the same for everyone. It is uniquely mine, as it will be uniquely yours. We can rest confidently that God will help us find it.