This blog post was sparked by the post of  a fellow blogger, Ann Marie Dwyer of Momma’s Money Matters blog fame in this post:  Who are you?.   She asked “How do you describe yourself most often?”  Feel free to stop by and take the poll on the left of the screen.  It asks the above question with the following for possible answers:  by name only, as a spiritual being, by occupation, by family position, by character, by employment status, by politics, remain anonymous, and other.

Who am I?

It seems we start asking this question from the moment our brains begin to recognize that we are individuals who have to fit in with other individuals in some way.  I suspect much of our search for identity comes from our need to be significant, to be someone in a world full of other someones.  It often starts with the realization that I am not my mother and seldom ends in a life time.

Why is this?

In reality, our identity is all of the above and then some.  Our identity, at least in this context, is flexible and changeable.   When we lose a job, does our identity change?  If our child dies, are we no longer a mother/father?  If I get married, I gain a new identity as a wife.  If I divorce, I lose that identity and become and ex-wife.  You get the point.  Life changes and with it, our identity.

My story

My entire life has been a series of identity claims and having those identities pulled out from under me.  Why?  Because my God has been trying to teach me that my identity is in Him.  I am His child, His creation, His.  Having had a relationship with God from early on, and seeking to serve Him and be who He made me to be, this makes perfect sense.  However, it has not been easy, especially in the early years.

This is what I am

I have a tendency to latch on to something as my ‘identity’ and focus on that thing, seeking my worth from my ability to perform within that identity.  As you can probably guess, when I didn’t meet my own perfectionistic standards, I would have another identity crisis and look for something else to fill that need.  I had to be the best and took on responsibility that did not belong to me in relationships and more.  I was a people pleaser, everyone except me, of course, and I was devastated when I did not please said others.  Sooner or later, this way of thinking/being doesn’t work out very well for identity or anything else.  Whenever I get close to that point where I start falling into the trap, God pulls me back and reminds me this is something I door a relationship I am in, but it is NOT who I am.

A = B 

Through all this I have learned the hard way that when it comes to God and identity, A does not always lead to B.   5 years ago or so, I met someone, in a definite “God Story” kind of way, who was looking for an illustrator for her children’s book.  I did those illustrations and we became fast friends.  Together we sought a publisher for the book.  I became a “Children’s Book Illustrator”, but only in my mind.  Eventually, I sent our work into a publisher who wanted the book, but not me.  Many publishing companies only use their own illustrators.  I prayed hard about this, and realized I needed to free my friend from her contract with me and allow her to pursue publication of her book, her dream for many years.  She fought me, but in the end accepted the offer and her book has recently come out (more later:).  I went through the anger at ‘losing’ that identity and the self-esteem that comes from being able to say I [________].  But mostly, I hurt at losing this, even though I did it willingly because it was the right thing to do.   The book may have wound up looking way different than either of our visions, but it has nothing to do with me or my identity.  God had other reasons for me meeting her and doing those illustrations, etc..  He used me to bring this to fruition.  He used it to help me and to help her and to bring a dear friend into my life.

Free to be all I was created to be

When I recognized that A = B  in God’s world (His purposes are different than mine), I was able to be free from that need to seek an identity that defined my worth.  It allowed me to walk away in the above situation and many more we don’t have time for here.  How freeing to have my identity in my God and who I am in Him.  That relationship is all the identity I need.  All else is gravy.

You’re a great Mom

Another way this effected my identity was in relationships.  I spent more years than I care to remember beating myself up, and often apologizing, for the things I did wrong raising my children (or in other relationships).  If I couldn’t be what I considered good enough, I couldn’t claim the identity associated with the relationship.   I’ve come a long way in that regard, but last week, my daughter gave me a wonderful gift.  She looked at me and said, “You’re a great Mom.”  I, of course, said, yeah but….  She stopped me and said, “Mom, your not perfect, you’re human, but you are a good mom.”   What a concept.  I can claim the identity of a ‘good mom’ even though I didn’t do it perfectly.  I am not the sum of what I can do, what I have done right, what I have done wrong, or even what I can’t do.  Speaking of freeing!  At that moment, I realized that I have been doing it again.

What do you see?    

Some people look at a paper and see the 99.99% white of the paper.  I tend to look at it and see the tiny black dot that mars the whiteness.  God has had to teach me otherwise.  I’ve learned to look through God’s eyes to see my worth.  When I am working on a painting or other craft and my daughter walks in and says, “Wow!”  I know I am ready to stop.  I cannot police myself in saying this is good enough.  I thank God for teaching me that I am good enough, the things I do are good enough, and so much more.

So what do you see?  Where do you find your worth?  Do you seek an identity that will set you apart from others or make you ‘special’?  If not, how do you find your worth?