My mind is a whirlwind right now, so my apologies to anyone who reads this and has trouble following. One of the blessings of this blog has been getting to process what I’m learning, but when it’s all fresh and in-process it’s not exactly polished. I imagine it’s going to take a few posts to get it all figured out, so I guess this is an introduction.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity. And freedom. And I’ve concluded that there are two primary identities that have to be clearly defined in order to walk in the freedom of the Gospel, especially for women. First, we need to know who God is and who he isn’t. For many of us, that means an intentional deconstructing of the mismatched identity for God that we’ve created. He is not our Dads, ex-Boyfriends, Husbands, Brothers, Pastors. He is not the guy who used and discarded you, the dad who wouldn’t allow you to express your emotion, the pastor who enforced rules apart from grace. He is both Holy and Loving. He is Comfort and Justice. He is the God who redeemed us while we were still in our sins. He is the God who sees us.
But that’s the scary part. The God who sees us. So we cower in the darkness, hoping to remain unnoticed. Hence the second identity. We need to know who we are. And I think that identity is twofold – we need to know who we are apart from Christ, and who we are in Christ.
God has spent the past couple of years extending grace upon grace as I sift through the baggage of who I’ve created Him to be in my heart and mind. And as he’s piled on truth and healed lots of brokenness, I think I’ve started to walk in a clearer reality of who this Wonderful God is that I follow. Not to say that I have captured even a glimpse of His glory and goodness, but I stand a wretched sinner before His holiness and sing and dance in delight and gratitude before his grace and mercy that I have done nothing to deserve.
Through that process, I have become keenly aware of who I am apart from Christ. And passages like Romans 1, Ephesians 2, Colossians 3, Titus 3, and many others serve as a harsh reminder of what life was like before God extended freedom to me in Christ, by His grace alone.
I hope someday to get to write more about all of that. But It’s my identity now, in Christ, that has been a raging battle as of late. And it’s hard to sift through, because an identity is not some singular, isolated thing. I am a sinner saved by grace, adopted into the family of God. But I am also a woman – a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend. I am part of a family, a church community, a neighborhood community, this world. There are the things that I do which define me – I parent, cook, write, take photographs, for example. Or there are the things I don’t do that also comprise my identity. There are the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve known. All of these things bring me to right now, and I find myself feeling insecure and overwhelmed.
I came across Ephesians 4:1 awhile back and was struck by the charge in it –
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
I immediately thought of my “calling” as a mother. I was filled with encouragement at the thought that this is a high calling, and prayed that the next part (verse 2) would equip me to do a better job:
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
Meanwhile I’ve been plagued with fresh insecurities. I walk away from conversations and worry, did I talk too much? I imagine the thoughts of those around me, deeming me irrelevant, old and frumpy. I am certain I am being judged regarding my parenting, the style of my home, the way that I’m dressed, my past, or any other number of things. I worry that I’m not a submissive enough wife, or that I’m too abrasive, or not a fun mom. Even publishing a blog brings a rush of fears about the judgment of anyone who might read. In fact, I am certain you are judging me right now!
Don’t worry, God has been doing a number on me, starting with Ephesians 4:1. It’s funny that I thought I was memorizing it for one reason, when in fact He intended to teach me something entirely different through it.
So I’m reading this book Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey and pretty much wept as I read his take on “Paul’s ‘ringing appeal…to live up to [our] privileges’ (64). He applies Ephesians 4:1 broadly, not like I read it as “walk in a manner worth of your calling as a mother” but rather “Synchronize your walk with what Christ has accomplished. Since you’re declared righteous, now walk righteous. Since you’re declared holy, purify your ambitions and actions” (64). He goes on to argue that our calling is not synonymous with activity. It is about who we are in Christ, not what we achieve or do. He describes it this way:
God saved us, adopted us, forgave us, declared us righteous in his sight, and altered our desires so they bend toward him. Then he says to us, “Now become what I have declared you to be.” (66)
He tells this fictional story that I couldn’t do justice so I’m just going to copy it here. I know this is getting long but it is worth reading.
Johnny was a Polynesian and one of the sharpest traders in the South Pacific islands. Strong, bright, and rich, he was a leader among the people on the island of Nurabandi.
On the adjacent island of Kiniwata, there lived a woman named Sarita. She was no looker…She walked the village with fretful disposition, shoulders sloping downward as if she carried some unseen burden. But for reasons known only to poets and prophets, Johnny loved Sarita and wanted her as his wife.
It was customary among the people of these islands for a man to buy his wife from her father – sort of a reverse dowry. Two or three cows would secure an average wife. Adding another cow would get you an upgrade; two more would buy a head-turning beauty and some Ginsu knives.
In a transaction shocking the islanders, Johnny shelled out eight cows for Sarita. Why pay quadruple the going rate for Sarita? Simple. Johnny wanted her to know that in his eyes she was worth more than any other woman. It was a statement from him of her value. To Johnny, she was an eight-cow wife.
Word of this unprecedented bride price spread far and wide. But that’s not the end of the story.
One day a visitor came who had heard the story of Johnny’s marriage and wanted to see the bride for herself. When she did, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Sarita “was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” the woman reflected. “The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.”
Sarita became what Johnny declared her to be: an eight-cow wife. She was walking worthy of her call. (65-66)
Man, if I could just see with fresh eyes fixed on Jesus instead of on the people around me and the overwhelming list of expectations I have heaped upon myself. I am begging God to help me to see who he has declared me to be in Christ. It’s not part of my identity on a list of a bunch of other facets of who I am, it is the identity that all the other facets must be rooted in.
And if we understand who God is, and who we are apart from Christ, our gratitude for who become in Christ compels us to walk. I want to walk in a way that is worthy of that call, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. And if I’m walking in that calling, depending only on grace and the Spirit for strength to obey, seeking acceptance and approval only from my position in Christ, well, then – no offense – I don’t care what you think. 🙂