I have identity issues.
For a majority of my life, I’ve struggled with where to place my identity.
These are just a few of the things that I have put my identity in. And you know what? Each and every one of these things has let me down.
I’m not saying any of these things are inherently bad, but what happens when they become everything that we are, when we place our identity in what was meant to be filled by Christ?
Let’s define identity, for the purpose of this, as:
People’s approval. The more I have sought to gain the approval of my peers, the lonelier I’ve felt. When I place my identity in what others think of me, my self-confidence and identity stem from how many friends I have in real life (and on Facebook) and the amount of followers I have on Instagram. How fickle that can be. I have seen that in these times when the approval of people matters the most, I develop surface level relationships in order to be well liked and neglect those relationships that matter the most. And because I placed my identity in whether people liked me, it caused ups and downs, and it was exhausting.
Status. This one goes right along with the approval of other people. When I thought it was more important to be elevated to the highest position, to be regarded as highly spiritual and a leader, I felt the furthest away from Christ. My relationship with Him was not authentic, it felt more like a show. As my time as a leader came to a close, I felt lost because I determined that I wasn’t needed anymore and I felt neglected. The result of both of these things was loss of purpose. And because I placed my identity in whether or not I was needed and had status, it caused ups and downs, and it was exhausting.
Relationships. This is not referring to romantic relationships (I’ll get to that one next). What I’m referring to is placing your identity in having deep friendships, having a best friend. I’ve always envied those people who have that one person in their lives that they do everything with. I never had that until recently (shoutout to my roomie!). But when I placed my identity in striving to find that one person whom I could become best friends with, I denied God the chance to enter my heart in that capacity. Growing up, I was shy and introverted. All I wanted was to be someone’s best friend but rarely left the walls of my home. I remember being rejected by people growing up and this led to me closing myself off. In middle school I was lonely. In high school I was lonely. For the first part of college, I felt awfully lonely as well. And because I placed my identity in friendships, it caused ups and downs, and it was exhausting.
Guys. For much of my life, I have dreamed of the man I am going to marry. I have prayed for him and longed for him to be in my life. But he still hasn’t come. Because I placed my identity in guys, a gaping hole was formed. I would pine after guys, often times new guys I met would instantly capture my attention. My emotions went up. Then, nothing would happen. My emotions would plummet. I was faced with a question I’m still wrestling through: would I still have faith and trust in God if He told me that I was called to be single the rest of my life? Because I placed my identity in my relationship status, it caused ups and downs and it was exhausting.
Success. School has always come easy to me. I really didn’t have to put too much effort into getting good grades throughout high school and even into the first few years of college. Then I started teaching. While I knew the book smarts of teaching, I struggled with the balance of multitasking, solving disputes, and providing students with interactive and engaging activities. I was way outside of my comfort zone and because I had placed my identity in success, as it became harder, and my self-worth and confidence were hard to come by. I struggled with believing that this was where God had called me and began to question His plan for my life. And because I placed me identity in success, it caused ups and downs. And it was exhausting.
Happiness. There have been two major times in my life when I have felt the joy and happiness sucked out of me. First, in middle school and even into the beginning of high school, I was so lonely. I was the subject of gossip and teasing by girls in my classes. I felt anything but joy. In order to break away from the hurt, I turned to watching copious amounts of TV. I would immerse myself in fake reality because the lives of those on TV seemed so much happier than mine. Happiness was failing me. Second, this past year, my family unit fell apart. I took so much pride and happiness in my family and how strong we were. But there were cracks that no one perceived as ready to break open. There was very little happiness amidst so much hurt and pain. And because I placed my identity in how happy I was and whether or not life was great, I felt emotional ups and downs.
It was exhausting. Draining. Life-sucking.
But then, Jesus entered. Well actually, He was always there, just waiting for me to say, “Yes. Jesus, be my identity.” So then, my identity became Jesus and things changed drastically.
People’s approval. Jesus. Approval. Status. Jesus. Daughter of a King. Relationships. Jesus. Close relationships. Guys. Jesus. Content in singleness. Success. Jesus. Self-worth. Happiness. Jesus. JOY.
The ups and downs were replaced with constant love. My self-confidence and worth were no longer rooted in the things that sucked the life from me.
They were found in the giver of life. That is something to rejoice in!
If you find yourself placing your identity in things that are life-taking, turn to the One who promises a well that will never run dry. Don’t believe the lies. Jesus died for you and me, He is enough. Trust in that today.