I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted. My parents challenged us, yes, but mostly they gave us room to explore. I traveled the world in high school; my parents put their 17-year-old on a plane to Africa and prayed like crazy, but never did they ask why. Why the adventure? Why the unknown? Why Africa? They knew why. Just a year prior, they stood beside me and watched me dive head-first off a cliff. They listened to the stories and dreams for as long as I could talk. Putting me on that plane was inevitable. Maybe they had known it for years.
My parents didn’t ask why. But they also didn’t ask who. Who are you? Maybe they didn’t ask because they knew I didn’t know yet. They knew that getting on a plane and flying halfway around the world was part of me trying to figure it out.
But that’s what we ask each other: who are you?
I’m Kendra Dahl. Wife of Jordan, Mom of Hadley, Adrienne, and Maximus. Homemaker, stay-at-home-mom, used to be a photographer, college graduate. These and other roles shape my answer to that question.
The problem is, as these categories slip off my tongue, so do the expectations. I must be a good wife, a good mom, a good homemaker.
I’m Kendra Dahl, and I’m a failure.
I’m Kendra Dahl, and I don’t know who I am. Only who I’m supposed to be.
“Unfortunately, while roles and categories provide us some measure of stability in an uncertain world, the problem comes when these things change, as they inevitably do. The loss of a job, a broken marriage, unexpected illness, infertility, or churches that fail us. And suddenly the questions we had succeeded in repressing flood back to the surface…
Perhaps even more surprisingly, good times can initiate the search for identity as often as bad…Even in these moments, as we come down from the emotional high, we realize that they didn’t fulfill us the way we had expected; despite having invested so much of ourselves in what we thought would provide a lasting sense of meaning, we hardly know ourselves in the midst of it.”
– Hannah Anderson, Made for More (chp. 1)
I’ve been pondering that adventurous 17-year old who disappeared under a pile of shoulds and can’ts.
And I’ev been wondering what it would be like to think less in terms of roles and more in terms of loves.
I’m Kendra Dahl, and I love Jesus. I love my husband. I love my kids, I love the Bible, I love to read, I love going on adventures, I love people and their stories, I love travel and experiencing different cultures, I love words and piecing them together to make an idea clear. I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned.
These loves still do not validate my existence. They are not sin-less and they do not justify me. They are still not the starting point of my identity.
But I wonder, as I explore this doctrine of Imago Dei, if I will begin to see that the things I love are shaped by the God who made me. I wonder if thinking in these terms could allow me to celebrate the grace of God who blesses me with good things, who continually shapes and changes me to be more like Jesus. I wonder if it would help me to praise God for the ways he has tangibly grown me–I haven’t always loved the Bible. My definition of adventure has changed. My love for people has grown from a simple curiosity to a genuine desire to see people experience the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. I wonder if thinking in these terms could expose my sin and lead me to hope in Christ as he completes the work he started.
I’ve realized that I share very little of myself with my children. I’ve been so caught up in the “shoulds” of my roles that I haven’t allowed them to see my loves. Maybe I’ve forgotten about my loves.
A few weeks ago I read the Magician’s Nephew. Realizing I had been deprived of a beautiful story, I told Hadley, “You’ve got to read this!” My eyes lit up with excitement as I gave her glimpses of Aslan’s creation of Narnia. Her eyes danced with mine as she begged to know more. I wouldn’t tell. She had to read it. But she didn’t have to read it because I was her mom and good moms make their kids read books. She wanted to read it because I had shared my love.
I wonder if that’s a little bit of what it’s like to be made in the image of God.
I don’t know, I’m only on chapter 2. 🙂
To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.