Saturday, June 7, 2014

Who Am I?

The mercy we are offered in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness.  But it is more than that; it is also an offer that transforms our very identity - we are invited into the family of God as adopted children.  Christians call that identity-level change transformation.
This quote is from the book The Shame Exchange: Trading Shame for God's Mercy and Freedom, as quote in the book The Mercy Prayer by Robert Gelinas.  It goes right along with my post, this post has been marinating in my heart for a few weeks; maybe all my life.  Pretty sure it will go in a book in extended form.

Nearly 5 years ago, I wrote an article on coming to a point in our lives of faith when we have to definitively declare who Jesus is.  (Read it here.)  If we are ever to move, one way or the other, we must settle this issue.  That's sort of a theme of my first book, relating to God in love and understanding what that means to live it out. 

Now, I think it is time to take another step.  I need to declare, definitively, who I am.  It is part of this realization of my freedom in Christ, how to live in His love and relate to myself.  That's the second book - the forgotten part of Matthew 22:37-39 - love your neighbor as yourself.  

You can't really love anyone else, including the Lord, if you don't love, like or at least come to terms with yourself.

(The third book is growing in a life of love for others.  Maybe that was obvious.)

I still struggle with stuff that should have been kicked to the curb YEARS ago.  I still have trouble accepting compliments.  I still look in the mirror and (generally) only see things that are wrong.  My husband has a habit of telling me how pretty I am when I can look in the mirror and see he probably needs glasses, or lasik or new eyes.

But I had a radical thought the other day.  He told me how pretty I looked on an evening of a day when I hadn't showered (and I don't think I'd even brushed my teeth.)  I kind of chuckled, as usual, but hot on the heels was a quiet whisper,

What if he's right?  What if you really are pretty?  WHAT IF YOU BELIEVED HIM?

What the?!?!?!

It's a dangerous question.  It is almost a subversive thought for a good Christian woman to focus on what's right with herself, instead of what is wrong.  Self-effacement, even self-degradation, has long been required by the most pious among us.  But that's a form of oppression and slavery the Cross is meant to bury forever.

We were never meant to be vain.  But on the flip side, disliking, even hating ourselves is NOT humility and it denies everything Christ said and did in His life here Earth.

Humility is knowing who you are and using those gifts for the glory of God and the good of other people.  It is understanding that in order to have the most abundant life, your permanent position is on your knees, to pray, to serve, to comfort, to give.

When we think, speak and act from a place of negative self-image, we are saying God and His creation are not good.  That's in complete violation of what God, Himself says, about us.  And He doesn't just say we are good, He says we are VERY GOOD.  

Check Genesis 1:31 in case you want to argue with me.

Still, I do what everyone else does.  I've let people (and the mirror) tell me who I should be.  I've let my own twisted thought patterns determine how I see myself.  I've let my mistakes, my troubles, my cravings, my desires and my victories determine who I am.  There is a lot of "Me," in there.

Here is a short list of things I came up with that have defined who I am over the years:
  • Who my parents are; 
  • How and where I was raised; 
  • What church and school I went to; 
  • Who I was or was not in a relationship with; 
  • How my children behaved; 
  • How many children I have (and what gender they are);
  • How much money I had (or didn't have); 
  • How hard I could work; 
  • How smart I was;
  • Who I work with;
  • What time of day I did things;
  • What I weighed; 
  • How far I could run;
  • How fast I could swim;
  • How much I could do each day;
  • How much I could give;
  • Who I voted for;
  • What medicines I took;
  • Who hurt me and how they did it;
  • What I owned (or didn't) and how much debt I incurred (or didn't) to get it;
Like I said, it's a short list; just a few, general points of references for who I am, or who others would say I am.  And these things aren't really bad if taken as that: a point of reference.

But they are not who I am.

Nothing, absolutely nothing and no one, I've come to realize (lately) should determine who I am.  There is only one acceptable definition.  It is not WHO I am, but WHOSE I am.

You see, I am a creature.  It is only my Creator who can really say who or what I am.  He is the only one who really knows why I was made and what I can do, as much as I like to think I know better.  As much as I like to think I can add on, like I can make His perfect creation more perfect.

But friends, that just isn't the case.  I don't know myself as well as He does.

My identity, as a Christian, should only and ever come from my Lord.  Anything else is idolatry - putting another creation in front of Him, on His rightful place.  Call it filling the God-shaped hole, putting Him on the throne, or whatever; the benefits are only and ever fleeting when I let anyone/thing but my Father in Heaven determine my identity and self-worth.

What God, in the Person of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit, has done, the worth He has given me as a result of His life, death and resurrection is the only thing that matters.  Everything I think, say and do needs to come from that place of wholeness in knowing Him, or it's chaff pretending to look like wheat.

And it is whole.  I mean, I am whole.  What was once broken is now fixed, for the better.  I can ask the what if questions, the big questions and let Him answer them.  I don't have to come up with a fix or solution myself.  I don't have much understanding, so I don't trust in it.  I trust Him.

I trust in Him.  I trust in what He has done.  I trust in Who He is.

Because in Him, I am the best me I will be until I am fully present with Him.  In Christ, this side of glory, He is making me who I really am.  I can love myself, even enjoy the woman in the mirror because His truth has set me free, indeed.  More than His truth, His love has given me more than I ever dreamed of.  He knows who I am and I am enjoying getting to know her.

Do you know who you are?

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