If I asked you, “Who are you?” what kind of answer would you give me? If you’re my husband, it’ll be a smart-aleck response like, “I’m Ben.”
It’s a simple question that could have a simple (and perhaps justifiably smart-alecky) response. But it’s central to how we live our lives. I’ll explore how it affects other things in future posts, but for now, let me share the story of my changing identity.
The pit of perfectionism
When my friend Janna asked me, “Who is Marya?” I really didn’t know what to say. I gave a few answers: “I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, an encourager, a servant, gracious, merciful, kind.”
Over the course of an hour or more we talked through many more things that I do naturally, that I enjoy, that I’m passionate about. We filled almost two sheets of paper. I was feeling pretty good that we came up quite a few things that I do well. It was encouraging.
Then Janna said, “So who is Marya apart from what you do? Who does Marya be?” (She really does know grammar, but English is so limiting sometimes!) I looked at my two pages and it was almost entirely made up of things I do. This is how I defined who I was. The list wasn’t bad, in fact it was mostly good.
But finding my identity in what I do leads me into the pit of perfectionism. Because only when I do everything “right” can I be fulfilled. I will never be perfect in this life. I’m a good mom, but sometimes I yell at my kids. I’m a good cook, but occasionally I burn dinner. I’m a good worker, but maybe that job won’t always be there or maybe it doesn’t satisfy. Striving to be perfect will eventually lead me down the path of disappointment, discouragement, and depression.
Freedom in grace
So where do I find a firm identity that isn’t shaken by the circumstances of life? I had to go back to Truth. Whatever else I am or do, I am a good fruit tree. Nothing can change the fact that I am a daughter of God, chosen before the foundation of the world, wonderfully created. Because God chose to create me, I am important to Him. Every person on earth is loved by God and important to Him, because He created us!
When I choose to see my identity in who I am in Christ I have freedom in His grace. When I sin, I find forgiveness at the cross. When I am tired, I find Jesus gently calling me to rest. I was not meant to be in bondage to perfectionism but I was called into freedom to walk in the Spirit in love, joy, and peace. And as I have soaked in my identity in Christ, those fruits of the Spirit have indeed been more prevalent in my life.
Who I am didn’t change, but how I viewed myself did. This is a belief muscle that I must continue to exercise. When my child throws a tantrum in the church parking lot, I have the choice: Do I choose to believe that I’m a failure and the godly women walking in the parking lot could do so much better than me? Or do I conclude that I am a daughter of God and that He will help me and use this difficult situation for my good and His glory?
How do you view yourself? How do you answer the question, “Who are you?” Is it on a firm foundation or does it shift based on how the day happened to go? God is calling you to freedom!