I think there are questions we all ask ourselves. Some are trivial like what do I want to eat for lunch or what should I do next on my task list. But some are more philosophical and honestly a little scary. They require thought and a genuine assessment of oneself. They can cause hurt so some of us tend to avoid these topics altogether. But I believe for real growth, we need to push to ask hard questions about ourselves and think candidly about the answers. We also need to be willing to have discerning friends that can help mirror our true self back to us so that we see it clearly and humbly. It is such a vulnerable yet refining exercise to ask these hard questions. It is a worthy venture.
One of these hard questions is the question of identity. Who am I? Really? Where am I finding my worth and value? It’s a somewhat in-vogue question these days, especially for women. If you’ve been a Christian very long at all, you know the “correct” answer to some of the following questions. But I would ask you to dig a little deeper and answer these questions honestly. Push aside all the right answers and be real with yourself. We may be scared of how we really define ourselves but until we understand, we can’t pray and humbly ask the Lord to change us. May the Lord search our hearts as we read and ponder.
1. What do I get excited about?
Excitement is a great part of life. It gives energy and motivation. It makes you positive and in a good mood. So what do you get excited about? What do you most look forward to? What makes your week? What gives you hope? I get excited about a lot of things- good food, date night, watching my kids do something fun, vacation. I think those things tell me something about who I am. Not all of it is bad. I’m a mom who is proud of her kids as I should be so I look forward to watching them do things well. I’m a wife who loves her husband so I enjoy a date night out alone with him so we can talk without interruption.
But sometimes these good things that I get excited about become what I most look forward to and define myself by. If being a good mom becomes all I am, everything in my world will be wrapped up in my kids to the neglect of everything else. If I am defined by my husband’s love for me, I will do whatever it takes to get it. While these are good things, the thing I should most be defined by is my relationship with God. It takes a lot of pressure off, too. If I get excited about the hope of heaven and being there with Jesus, that definitely puts things on earth in a different perspective. If I enjoy and get excited about spending time daily in prayer and Bible study, I’ll make it a priority that I’m sad to miss out on.
2. Where do I spend my time, money and talents?
This is a pretty classic question when you look at identity or what you might be idolizing. It’s a good question though. Let’s look at it with a different perspective. What roles or jobs do I like to do? Which ones take priority? This can be an insight into what you value and how you see yourself. Is your favorite thing to do from your task list cleaning? Then you may find part of your identity and worth in keeping a clean house. Do you cook for hours sometimes neglecting other chores? These may be clues to where you’re finding your significance. Maybe you feel successful in your identity as a cook so that when something doesn’t turn out well, it makes you feel like a failure. Maybe you spend hours and lots of money on decorating your house so that people will compliment your decor. Is your identity wrapped up in that? Maybe you get identity in getting things done and being productive, marking things off your to-do list. We need to remember that these things are not what give us value as people even if they’re things we enjoy and are often most gifted at. We should use these to glorify God, not self. These should not be the things that define us. We do not fail as a person if we fail in these areas.
3. What do I get most upset about when it goes wrong?
What would hurt you most if it was gone tomorrow? Family? Your house or car? Your phone? Job? Exercise? Your appearance? Food? Our emotions about things tell us a lot about what we value. When things I value are messed up or taken away, negative emotions naturally follow. If you’re getting really upset about something, it’s worthwhile to ask why it’s upsetting you. This can clue us in to things we’re putting too much value on. Sometimes when I ask why am I upset, it shows me that I feel like a failure when certain things go wrong. I feel like it reflects badly on me because that thing has become too much a part of how I view myself. I’m getting my validation and worth as a person from these things going well-from these things making me look like I have it all together. These things in my mind define who I am so when something goes wrong, I lose something I was proud of. I seem to lose a part of myself. I feel like I lose in the eyes of others. As my worth is increasingly in Jesus, I become less upset when these other things go wrong, because I can see how He’s working through that for my good. And He will never disappoint me so if my hope and security is in Him, I’m much more stable when the junk of life happens.
4. In what areas do I tend to be the most envious?
Envy is wanting what someone else has. In what areas of life do you get most upset when people succeed? Where do you think- that should be me, not her? Where are you most envious of other people and what they have? I think following these crumbs can lead back to our identity issues. For example, if I view myself as a good baker, that is a part of my identity. Then when I bake something and take it to a social and someone else gets a complement on their dish, I can become jealous, especially if no one gives me a compliment. It makes me question whether I really am good at baking. That part of my identity comes into question and raises all kinds of emotions. One clue to where I’m finding my identity lies in what I’m envious of with others.
5. My identity is messed up. Now what?
We’ve looked at ways to tell where our identity wrongly lies. Now what? How do I make my identity reflect more of God and less of myself. Honestly, I’m not fully sure. I’m on this journey too. I do know a few things, though:
My value should be in God, who is stable and loves me no matter what. The more I think of myself as God’s child that He unconditionally loves, the more my identity will be rooted in Him. The less I think about these other roles and how important it is that I’m good at them the better.
I need to hold these things with open hands. Part of who I am is my gifting and roles and the responsibilities that I carry. But that is a part of me that God gave me and I should allow Him to take them away if He chooses. They’re not mine to guard. They can come and go and I should be ok. I have to pray about this, thanking God for His gifts and confessing that He still has the authority to control them for me.
My faith needs to increase. I need to remind myself constantly that God does know better than me. He knows me better than I do. He knows the things I’m good at and the things I think I’m good at but I’m really not. He knows things I’m great at that I haven’t discovered yet. And if I’ll trust that He’s out for my good, He will lead me to discover those things about myself. He wants to lead me into roles I haven’t yet realized I’m really gifted for and made to do. Since He knows things about me and about the future that I never can and He only acts with love and kindness, why am I so resistant to trusting Him with the parts of myself that I hold most dear? Because maybe it will hurt or make me look foolish because I’ve been wrong. It’s scary. But I have to have faith to trust that He and His ways are best for me.
And I have to ask God to give me courage. His Spirit must bring about a slow change in me that re-forms my idea of myself. Because I do want to more honestly be able to assess who I am. I want my value to be found in an unchanging place, not one that is based on whether I succeed in something or not. I want to be more stable and grounded. I don’t want to have blind spots that everyone sees but me. I want to be more open to critique and change and growth. But I can’t do that if I always have to succeed or feel like a failure. God help me. I have a long way to go.