I think about myself a little too much. I think about who I want to be, who I was before I had kids, who I don’t want to become (at any cost), and who I am now that I have gone through a global pandemic. I think about the pieces I want to hold onto, I cringe at the parts that I have let go of, I fight for the parts of me I used to love, but need to give up, I grieve for the freedoms that have been lost. But above all, I rejoice in the growth and blessings of the present. I think about what type of mom I want to be, what type of toys to buy my daughters, how to set up her room, her playroom, our home? I think about how I want to use my gifts for the Kingdom, what my place is in the Kingdom as a mom who barely has her life together enough to put the laundry away. The root of all these thoughts is “who am I?” What do I need to do or not do to fill out this silhouette of me?
The world will try to fill that hole with a mosaic of labels and accomplishments until we look like a child’s cut and paste art project. We label ourselves as “vegetarian,” “spiritual,” “activist,” “gay,” “entrepreneur,” “attached parent,” “single,” “bibliophile.” Just read some dating profiles or Instagram profiles and you’ll see the plethora of creative titles we give ourselves.
Now, it is not a bad thing to understand yourself. To know what you like and what you don’t. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what you believe in, but I think we give these labels too much power.
There is a sweet satisfaction that comes with finding something that just clicks with you. Whether it be bike riding, writing code, baking, or organizing a closet, it feels like a puzzle piece being placed perfectly in your soul. It’s exciting to unearth and understand how God created you, down to the little details, the things that make you cringe, and the things that make you fly. These “click” moments are amazing pointers to the artist of the universe. How amazing that we all “click” with different things, or how our collection of “clicks” come together to create a unique whole person. I may love writing but I suck at music, but someone else may marry those two loves and write an amazing song. I’m more inclined to write an article or blog, clearly. Both are needed and both are beautiful. There is meaning and purpose in each. Each skill has a place and a purpose within the Kingdom.
You may buy into the story that this life, your life, is about you, and about who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be, but it’s not. Your life is not about you picking the right collection of labels, or being the right mix of strong-willed and understanding. Your life isn’t about you at all. We place too much importance on the labels we give ourselves. Often in the quest to find ourselves, we forget to whom we belong and whose story we are a part of.
In John 1, John the Baptist demonstrates the heart posture we should have when it comes to identifying ourselves. Religious representatives ask John who he is. An identity question, the question we are all trying to answer.
“So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” // John 1:22
He stands firm in his identity, quoting scripture:
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” // John 1:23
The representatives ask John if he is the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. With each question, John answers “No”.
He knew who he was and more importantly, he knew who he wasn’t.
When asked “what do you say about yourself”, he didn’t add any extra flourishes because he knew he didn’t need to. He didn’t need to know all the details or the big picture. He humbly was the “voice in the wilderness;” and that was enough. He knew what he was being asked to do at that moment and he did it.
I have to ask myself, is this true for me? Am I satisfied knowing I am where God wants me to be? Or am I constantly looking ahead, or wondering how this fits into things? Does this present moment that God is asking me to be in feel mundane? Do I wish I was called to something more exciting and significant?
Do I know who I am not? Or like the evil stepsisters, am I trying to make someone else’s shoe fit? I have my own lovely shoes, perfectly crafted for my here and now, but do I trust that when the time comes, God will provide the right shoes for the occasion?
The labels John rejected were good labels, not clearly bad, not insults, not critiques. They were good things, but maybe good things, good hats that we try to wear that just weren’t made to fit are just as harmful as the critiques we accept. My negative self-talk can be just as toxic as my positive self-bolstering talk when that talk is not centered on who I am in Christ.
When we mislabel God’s grace and blessings as self-made earnings we raise ourselves above Him. We take credit for something that is not our doing but His. We misunderstand who He is and whose we are. This story, your story, isn’t about you but it is all about who you belong to. And it is to Him that all credit and praise are due.
Without God’s grace, we try to find meaning and healing in our labels and accomplishments, filling out our silhouettes with shiny glittery things. Things we want to display to the world, things that prove our worth, and our place at the table. But when we face our own depravity we realize on our own we don’t have anything to fill in that silhouette. All we have to show are the things we would rather hide.
May we become women who trade labels for promises, justification for grace, and rags for Christs’s riches. May we take the time to dig deep and discover (maybe for the first time) who we really belong to. May we crack the spine of the actual story we are a part of. May we become women who knock on that door, and are amazed to find Him there waiting for us, with our spots at the table already set.