Tag: Identity

Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard to Prove Ourselves

 

I walk down the country road that slices through farm country, and these waving fields of corn and hay seem to envelope me.  Something about their verdant leaves bowing in the wind makes me feel secure here.

The corn fields will be ready for harvest soon. Any day, the tractor will come and sheer the fruitful stalks, and acres of stubble will blanket the ground like a four-day beard of golden whiskers.

I find myself remembering springtime, when I walked with the kids on this same road, and the farmer scattered seeds into muddy earth. I told the kids there would be corn here by the end of summer, and September seemed a lifetime away.

We drove past these fields as spring burst into summer and wild turkeys searched the soil for food. We spotted deer among the green sprouts as they grew, and we marveled at the slow change as stalks grew tall and lush.

On this evening, alone with the sinking sun and geese overhead, I can’t help but consider what it took for this field to bear a harvest. Every tiny seed of corn had to die and break open for the new plants to emerge.  I’m reminded of the way my body seemed to break with the birth of our two children.  I remember the way my body had to break if I was going to perform with excellence as an athlete in high school: burning lungs on cinder tracks as I prepared for big races and lying flat on the infield of the track in the aftermath.  I had to endure the pain of pushing my body in order to get better.

Looking at the corn, I’m also reminded of the bread Jesus broke so that he could feed thousands of people from five meager loaves. I’m reminded of his body, broken so that I might have life.  It seems life springs from brokenness.

John 12:24 reads: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I memorized this verse sometime in my early twenties, but I haven’t pondered the implications for far too long. What’s this actually look like lived out in my life right now?

I list the applications in my mind: Putting the needs of others in front of my own; being vulnerable when I really don’t want to; connecting with God instead of feeding my ever-hungry flesh; biting my tongue; speaking hard words of truth that don’t come easily; reaching out of my comfort zone and into the lives of others; slowing down; forgiving; letting go of grudges; admitting I don’t have it all together; standing before a holy God and confessing my sins with a broken heart.

A subtle theme threaded through my applications seems to speak of living as a woman who has nothing to prove. A woman with something to prove makes sure others notice her, acts strong and controls her emotions, strives to achieve more, keeps it all together, and carefully portrays competence and confidence in all situations.  Living with nothing to prove is living broken, like the seedlings planted in damp soil.

When I know I have nothing to prove, I can be real. I can let my guard down.  I let the subject drop without having the last word.  I don’t have to be right.  And when I am right, I don’t have to make it clear that I’m more right than others.

When I know I have nothing to prove, I can bear reproach without falling into a pit of self-loathing. I can bear false accusation quietly and without a need to speak my side of the case.  I can be misunderstood, left out, and overlooked without being deeply shaken.

When I have nothing to prove, I am broken before the Lord, and I admit that I need him for life and breath and everything else. In my utter dependence upon him, I am set free.  I know that he is the only One who offers the kind of strength I need to survive, and I trust that his strength is only made perfect when I’m ok with being weak.

I breathe the truth in deeply, aiming to recalibrate my life as I prepare to walk through a door with shouting little voices and toys scattered across every inch of the floor. I trust that in this dying to self, the most beautiful kind of life will rise from the ashes.

 

 

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For When You’re Feeling Less-than

 

Muddy water rolls onto the rocky shore like waves of hope, and I count my blessings with the rhythm of the surf: this perfect day with cerulean skies and just the right placement of high cirrus clouds, sailboats on the horizon, these rolling green hills that speak of life and abundance, a date with a six-year-old, and the fact that she begged me to bring her to this place with a Bible. It’s almost too much to really believe this is my child and my life.

I watch her as she watches the waves beside me. She’s past the age of hurling rocks and sticks for entertainment.  Today she simply wants to watch the boats and the clouds drift by.

I pray for words that might capture this moment and speak truth into the deepest recesses of her being. I want to make the most of the moment, make it teachable, and be intentional.

Her delicate hair dances in the wind, and she looks right through me with penetrating eyes. She wants to know what I’m thinking about.  I tell her I was watching her watch the waves, and I think she’s beautiful.  I tell her I’m so grateful for this time together.

That’s when I remember.  I remember Ann’s words from this morning:

“The world will say they will love you if you’re beautiful —but the truth is you’re beautiful because you are loved.  “God Loves YOU. He who is Love loves you unconditionally. Living as one truly loved and cherished by God is the cross- beam that supports an abundant life in Christ. Belovedness is the center of being, the only real identity, God’s only name for you, the only identity He gives you. And you won’t ever feel like you belong anywhere until you choose to listen to your heart beating out that you do—unconditionally, irrevocably.” ~Ann Voskamp

My daughter is beautiful because she is loved. She’ll face bullies in the days to come.  She’ll face boys who will promise to love her if she’s beautiful, but how can I teach her that it’s not the love of boys or the admiration that comes from other women that makes a woman beautiful.  A woman is beautiful because she’s loved by God.

I want her to know who she is without hesitation. She’s not simply pretty or smart or funny.  She’s not defined by her social status, her hobbies, or her aspirations.  Before all of these things, she is first beloved.  Belovedness is the center of her being, her only real identity, and God’s name for her.  How can I teach her this?

I open the Bible on my lap to Romans, and I tell her: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is how we know for sure that we are beautiful: God showed us that we are beautiful and beloved when he sent his Son to die for us.  This is the ultimate act of love.  You are beautiful because of this.”

I think of the labels with which I’ve defined myself: athlete, teacher, backpacker, wife, mother. I remember when the injury happened, and I could no longer call myself an athlete.  I remember walking away from my career to pursue full-time parenting, and I could no longer call myself a teacher.  I remember the day I realized it had been six years since I’d worn the old Kelty backpack into the mountains, and I could no longer call myself a backpacker.  What then?

What do we do with all the labels that are eventually stripped away? Who am I if it’s all stripped away?

Ann’s words ring true: The only identity that never changes is the identity that says I am beloved.

Blaise Pascal said it this way: “Not only do we know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ.”

I tell my girl that the only part of her that can never be stripped away is the love of Christ that is sealed over her life. No matter where she goes, no matter what she faces, she is still beloved.  There’s no need to prove herself to the world or make much of her life for the sake of a simple label.  She is free to live and love as one who is fully defined by the love of Christ.

She crawls onto my lap and listens intently. “Does this make sense?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says, “God loves me, just because I’m his.”

I kiss her damp hair. “Yes, just because you’re his.”

~~~

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