It’s October 20th, you say?
Well, I’m a little disappointed in how my series has gone. While I hoped that it would afford me opportunities to write, it turns out that committing to a blogging series does not suddenly make four busy children sit quietly with their hands folded so I can concentrate. Nor does it infuse me with post-bedtime energy (or pre-wake-up energy) when there are brief moments of peace and stillness in our house. Even on mine and Jordan’s mini-vacation this past week, there were too many friends and sites to see to sit down and crank out a blog post.
This series has gotten me to read, and that I love.
It’s gotten me to think and make connections that have lingered in the back of my mind and had yet to find their way out.
So I’m going to pretend it’s only day 13, because I have many thoughts to process and I don’t want to run out of time.
Just to let you know where I’ve been:
My husband told me Michael Horton had a good chapter on the doctrine of imago dei in his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace. It was good. So good, in fact, that I started back at the beginning and have been pleasantly surprised how a book on the doctrines of grace can speak so much into identity. Coming soon.
A friend showed me that The Village Church is doing a sermon series called, “A Beautiful Design” that is very much related to all I’ve been thinking and reading about. I haven’t started listening yet, but I’m hoping to find a way to squeeze it in. In my abundance of spare time. Maybe while I sleep?
I traveled with my husband to San Fransisco and Napa, CA this past week and wrestled with my identity crisis the whole time. There’s something about traveling that brings me to life, but it’s a passion I have pushed down and hidden and suppressed for quite awhile. When it rears its head, I’m not sure what to do with it.
We were there to photograph a good friend’s wedding, and another close college friend was in town as a bridesmaid. As we stood around talking at the reception, she asked how we liked living near Fargo.
“Well…” I started to respond, but hesitated.
I do like Fargo, in some ways. I am so grateful for our life. I like being close to family, my husband has a wonderful job, we have a beautiful home. I have come to grips with the fact that life isn’t about following my dreams in the way that my generation preaches. I have embraced right now as my shepherd season and I’m trusting that every mundane moment is part of God shaping me to be like Christ. But do I love being there? Not really. Do I daydream often about what it would be like to live somewhere else? Yes.
If I say no, am I ungrateful? Discontent?
Before I could say more, she laughed. Of course I wanted to move, she said. She knew me. She listened to me talk for years about leaving Fargo. She watched me pack up and move to Los Angeles and later to Chicago. She was there when my dreams were shattered and I moved home, and she was there during every attempt to leave again.
There was something really sweet about that conversation. Because I moved after elementary school and again in high school (and again in and after college), I don’t have many friendships that span multiple seasons of life. Most of the people I see on a regular basis now only know me from the last few years when I’ve been learning what it looks like to walk with Jesus. I love those people and am so thankful for the role of my church and community here, but having that conversation made me realize something: I spend a lot of time trying to prove that I’m different than I was.
But what I haven’t been able to reconcile are the remnants of my past that still shape me; the aspects of my personality that still describe me; the dreams and passions and gifts that are being sanctified but are still very much a part of who I am. I’ve been afraid to be seen as I was instead of as who I am, so I’ve buried all of that deep behind slumping shoulders, tried to put my head down and fill the role of godly-wife-and-mother.
That’s why this conversation was so refreshing. My longtime friend didn’t see my desire to leave as evidence of a discontented heart, she saw it as evidence of who I was.
Hannah Anderson gets at this in her chapter on holistic identity. She writes:
“One of the biggest barriers to a flourishing life is our tendency to separate our identity into categories…But because we are image bearers, our identity is not simply the sum of our various parts. Because we are made in God’s image, we are made to reflect His own wholeness and unity. We are made to live holistic lives.
“…At its most basic level, a holistic life is an attempt to coordinate and integrate the various aspects of identity into one complete package. It is a search for internal peace and unity, and its absence can often be the very reason people begin searching for meaning and purpose in the first place…Even as Christians, we pursue an elusive ‘balance’ and often believe that peace simply means finding the midpoint between two extremes.
“But wholeness isn’t simply about finding the middle ground, forgoing desire, or obliterating the different parts of your identity. And it’s not about giving equal time and shared custody to the categories of life. Wholeness comes when the parts of your life work together because they have been united by something greater than themselves: when they have been united by God’s own wholeness.” (Chp. 9)
She goes on:
“Not only are God’s people to love Him exclusively, not having any other gods before Him, but we are to love Him with the fullness of our identities, to love Him with every aspect of our lives…
As we submit every part of ourselves to Him, as He becomes the unifying element of our identity, we can finally achieve wholeness. We can finally be whole as He is whole. He does not obliterate the details of our lives, but pervades them in order to reconcile the different parts and make peace–in order to make them work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.” (Chp. 9)
What does it look like to achieve this wholeness? I’m not exactly sure. Right now, for me, it looks like asking lots of questions. It looks like opening myself to things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It looks like lots and lots of prayer. It looks like humility and gratitude.
And, most sweetly, it looks like freedom.
Freedom to see the intentional design of a Creator.
Freedom to repent of the sinfulness that taints every part of my being without having to reject those things that make me, me.
Freedom to hope and depend in the God who is faithful to complete the work He’s started.
“In many ways, pursuing image dei simplicity is anything but simple. It requires more than reducing our personhood to manageable categories and roles. It requires more than achieving balance between the different parts of life. It requires submitting every part of who you are–whether it is your womanhood, your gifting, or your personality–to every part of who He is.
And when you do, when you look to Jesus, the perfect Image Bearer who exists in perfect wholeness, you will once again find your own. You will find peace. You will find harmony. And like a brilliantly cut diamond, you will shine as the glory of His nature reflects and radiates through the different facets of your life.” (Chp. 9)