Who am I? Really. Have you ever found yourself asking that question?
Several years ago, the empty nest stage was approaching, and I wasn’t ready for it. Our oldest had just graduated college, and our middle child had just started college.
We had 2 more years to have our youngest son, Caleb, at home before we were going to have to face being alone. Or so we thought.
Unexpectedly, only a few months after the other 2 left home, one sad Monday morning, Caleb passed away.
Our world was rocked. Everything as we knew it changed.
In the midst of processing the grief, I also found myself needing to process something else: Who was I really?
For 22 years I had been Mom. A stay-at-home mom. All of my life had rotated around family. Meals, trips, books, friends, activities – everything revolved around being a family, growing a family, taking care of a family.
Now there was no family to take care of. Just my husband and me.
And I found myself face-to-face with the question: If I’m no longer a full-time mom, who am I?
Have you found yourself there? Maybe you’re in the empty nest stage, too, or will find yourself there soon. Maybe you’ve had a huge job change or you’ve moved to a new area and everything that once defined you is no longer part of your life.
As women who may have taken care of others all of our lives, we may not have spent any time or energy looking at what makes us tick. What brings us delight and what energizes us. Or we may have let others dictate our choices and desires for us, and we don’t even know what we want in life.
Brene’ Brown, researcher, author and professor, puts it this way:
When you read that quote, did you by chance feel a slight hesitation, maybe even a twinge of uneasiness that this whole subject borders on the edge of self-centeredness, of making your whole world about you rather than God? Yeah, me, too.
But I no longer see it that way. I believe God wants us to know who we are! We all have a longing and need to understand our identity.
If you were blessed to have affirming parents and teachers and role models as a child, you may already know what makes you “you” and you feel okay about it.
If not, it might take a life-changing event or even a traumatic loss to even see the need to find our identity. And then one day you find yourself with a host of questions and inner turmoil that needs resolving.
I think God may be waiting for just that questioning day. He planned you from the beginning, He knows every hair on your head, and He has nothing but positive thoughts about you and plans for your hope and a good future.
Just like you might know every detail of a piece of artwork you’ve created, He knows everything about the way He designed you. And He wants you to know, too!
The details of your life don’t surprise Him or disgust Him or even intimidate Him. He loves you! He wants you to know about yourself so you can live in confidence and hope. And when you get to know yourself through His eyes, you find you will also come to know Him in whose image you were made.
I’m actually going to divide this topic into 2 posts because I really want you to get this about your identity in God’s eyes. In this post, we’ll talk first about who you are not. We’ll get those negatives out in the open so you can recognize them and remove them from your thinking and outlook.
Then in the second post found here, we’ll talk about the positives of who God says you really are. You don’t want to miss it!
Who You Are Not
1. You Are Not Your Past
In 11th grade English class, I remember being assigned to read the book, The Scarlet Letter. The story is set in a Puritan settlement in Salem, Mass. back in the 1600’s. A young girl named Hester, punished for adultery, is now sentenced to wear the red letter A on her clothing for all to see what she has done.
Do you ever feel like you are wearing some kind of letter? Do you view yourself through a lens of past sin or failure or mistake, afraid that everyone who comes in contact with you sees you the same way?
Dear friend, if I could sit beside you in person, I would grab your shoulders and look you in the eye and tell you right out:
You are NOT defined by your past!
We are so guilty of seeing ourselves in light of our failures, aren’t we? “If only I hadn’t done this” or “If I’d only made this choice” or “If I had only done ___ better”. The guilt and shame of the past can be suffocating at its best and life-threatening at its worst.
I highly recommend you take 20 minutes out of your day and listen to Brene’ Brown’s Ted Talk: Listening to Shame.
Brene’ talks about how shame is that thing that tells you you’re never good enough, that you never finished school or you were too poor to amount to anything growing up or you’re not smart enough because you didn’t make good grades, and on and on.
Then she says this and it is so powerful:
Here’s where the beauty of the gospel comes shining through for us! Jesus dealt with all our sin and guilt on the cross! Isaiah 53 tells us that everything was placed upon Him – our shame, our sin, our rebellion, our missing the mark, our griefs and our sorrows. He took all the punishment we deserved so that we could be forgiven.
We are forgiven!!! Our sins are blotted out just like the mist on a foggy morning slips away when the sun comes shining through. God acts on those sins no more. He does not bring them back up to taunt us. He does not remind us of them ever again as if He needed to motivate us by guilt. (He would much rather motivate you by love!)
No! The past is the past. And here is where shame and guilt come in. When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we do feel guilt for what we’ve done. We go before the Lord to ask for forgiveness so that everything can be wiped clean, as if we’d never sinned.
But when shame comes sulking around, we feel like we ARE the sin. We ARE the bad behavior or the failure or the mistake.
We let our identity be shaped by the shame of our sin.
God does not do that.
Why should we?
In Hebrews we read:
Looking to Jesus..who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. —Heb. 12:2 ESV
Jesus despises the shame that hangs over you and that tries to keep you entangled in its strait-jacket. He died to set you free from all your guilt and all your shame.
You do NOT have to be defined by your past and what you did or didn’t do back there. And I’m not just talking about the past 20 years ago. It might be the past of this morning or just a few minutes ago when you blew it.
That’s not who you are! You are forgiven. You are loved. You do not have to let shame have a voice ever again.
You are not your past.
2. You Are Not a Victim
Life is hard, I know. Not only have we done our share of sinning and failing, but so have others.
We’ve all had bad things done to us. We’ve been stung and cut to the core by harsh words, been betrayed or deceived by those we thought cared for us, had needs ignored, and been cheated out of what was owed us.
And it is so easy to brood on all the injustice, isn’t it? To jump on board that self-pity train and ride it all the way to bitterness. To let all our hurt and griefs fester until they actually define us.
You may also have been a victim of something terribly, unspeakably traumatic, and you find yourself still living in the shadow of the memories. You may feel shame or guilt or disgust and can only see yourself in light of what was done to you. I am so sorry. No one deserves to be treated in such a way.
We are all victims to some degree or another. We live in a sinful world and if we are connected with others, we will be victims to their shortcomings and failures and sins.
But here’s the difference in being a victim and seeing yourself as a victim:
It’s all in your perspective.
Seeing yourself as a victim is really a mindset. Whether you’ve been victimized or not, if you see yourself as a victim, you’ve actually made a choice to see yourself that way.
You get to choose how you see yourself! If you define yourself by all the wrongs that have been done against you, you may find yourself bound up in a prison of emotions that you’d rather not have. Bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, judgments – oh, they can eat you alive!
If you feed this victim mindset long enough and agree to be its friend, you will find yourself taking on its identity. But I’m here to say this is not who you are!!!
Jesus’ death on the cross was not just for your sins but it was for all the sins committed against you. The shedding of His blood took care of everything that was done against you. You do not have to live imprisoned in your woundings.
Isaiah 61 tells us that Jesus was sent to bind up your broken heart, to give liberty for everything that has taken you captive, and to open the doors of every prison where you have been bound. Even those prisons where you’ve allowed the sins of others to put you.
You no longer have to be a caged bird.
Jesus gives you a new story. He offers you forgiveness and the ability to forgive others. You do not have to be defined by what has been done to you. He gives you the ability to overcome. To have hope. To start new. To rise above all that’s happened to you and be who you were created to be – regardless!
You are NOT a victim. You are an overcomer through Christ and His enabling power. He forgives you and helps you forgive others.
3. You Are Not What Other Voices Say You Are
Dear one, my heart breaks when I think about some of the voices you’ve heard in your life. You may still define yourself by things that were said to you when you were a child. Especially those things that were repeated over and over.
You may be haunted by the voices of other teens you knew in school, from the very vulnerable time when you were wrestling with so many insecurities, and they just didn’t appreciate the beauty of who you really were.
Or you may be hearing voices today, from an aging parent who berates you or a friend who just doesn’t get you or from a husband who desperately wants to fix you.
Somehow over time, we manage to collect all those voices, and they gradually become our own voice. They become our own thoughts, and they can define how we see ourselves.
Be honest now – the voices are seldom ever kind, are they? Aren’t we apt to remember only the negative words spoken over us and not the positive? Don’t we tend to seize upon the voices that tend to echo our own insecure rumblings inside?
The voices usually don’t tell the truth. They may hint at it. They may bring up old stuff. But they seldom get to the heart of who you are.
Here is a truth that changed my life and still is changing it today:
What the Lord says about you is true and what defines you!!! Not what anyone else says or thinks or believes!
You must cling to what He says, believe it as truth, and shift your perspective until you see yourself only in light of His voice.
We’ll talk more about how He sees you in Part 2. But for now, remember: You are not what others say about you.
So dear friend, as we start this unraveling journey of discovering who we really are, I hope you have found encouragement to start the process. Please be brave and make the choice to recognize these things that you are not and take them off the table.
- You are not defined by your past. You have been forgiven.
- You are not a victim. You have the choice to see yourself as an overcomer.
- You are not what other voices say you are. You are defined by the Lord’s voice and His opinion of you.
Thankful He unravels us to make us brand new works of art!
Would you join us in the comments with one positive thing God has shown you about yourself? Maybe it’s that you are really good at playing the piano, or you just really like the color red. Maybe it’s that you have a tender heart and cry easily at commercials. It doesn’t have to be something deep and weighty. Just feel okay to share something good, something beautiful about yourself. It will actually help us see God in new ways since you are made in His image!
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