Identity Crisis (Part I)

1. You are not your opinions.

I know, it’s an election season, and I know, if they would just listen to the powerful, compelling arguments you’re shouting over their replies, then they would see the light, they would make the right decision, and they’d be so, so grateful to you for opening their mind to the truth about the state of our country and how your candidate can finally fix all the world’s problems. Am I right, or am I right?

Listen to me, and listen well: you are not your opinions. Sometimes we hold so tight to those–and I’m not just talking in a political context–it’s as if we’re afraid that if we let go of them, if we let them change, we’re losing a part of ourselves or compromising a fundamental truth. But get this: you’re not. As a full-fledged, God-created human, you’re so much more than your agenda. There are things so much more important than your opinions–including your values and relationships.

It may be an uncomfortable experience to realize you’re wrong, but you know what that is? That’s pride. And you know what? You can move past it. And I think usually, this leads to increased understanding and a better existence for all of us.

2. You are not your failures.

When looking at your fellow humans, it’s pretty easy to see primarily their successes. That’s because successes tend to be pretty public and failures tend to be relatively private.  Hank Green, YouTube sensation and creator of VidCon, recently uploaded a video about this very subject (you can check it out here), and John Green, acclaimed author of the best-selling The Fault in Our Stars, responded similarly (here). Both of them have experienced tremendous public success, yet both admit here the real story, the things we don’t see–the things that went wrong.

That’s not a good feeling, the feeling of failure. I’ve definitely experienced it, even in the last week. And you have that voice repeating over and over in your head: “Not enough.” Not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not creative enough, not talented enough, not prepared enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough. Not enough.

But take heart: do you hear his voice? My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Failure is something you do, not something you are. And it’s done, and it’s over. That door has been closed; do you see the brightness up ahead? The mountain peak may be obscured by clouds, but when you reach the top, it will have been worth the climb, the scratches and soreness along the way–even if it turns out to be a different mountain than the one you thought you were climbing. You are so much more than any one role you take on–or thought you would take on. You are a person, not an occupation, achievement, or involvement.

3. You are not your successes.

You are a person, not an occupation, achievement, or involvement. This one can be tempting, because we often don’t realize we’re doing it. In fact, we often choose to adopt it to counteract #2. I may have failed in THIS area, but don’t forget about… And to a certain degree, that’s good, to not let your failures crush your dreams. But maybe this isn’t quite the right way to go about it. I think in reality, the realization of the weight you put on your failures is less the opposite of being defined by your successes, and more the result of it, the other side of the same coin.

You are more than your roles. More than a title, more than a job, more than your grades, more than your status, more than your reputation, more than your accolades, more than your position. And all of those things can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

4. You are not the standard in your head.

And neither is anybody else. It’s really, really easy to get caught in the trap of comparing yourself with others, or at least, the version of others that you see. We’re surrounded by mirrors, digital and actual, that reflect back at us the standard of what we should be, bouncing back into infinity like at the hairdresser’s until they’re magnified beyond attainability. Maybe what we should really be asking ourselves is, Is that really what I want to be? Maybe what we should really be doing is redefining the standard.

Jesus set it as himself. And then he died so that you didn’t have to meet it. That’s why the curtain tore, you know. It was tearing away the division, the lies, the sin that separates us. It was torn so that you could enter the Holy of Holies, unashamed and radiant. That is the truth of who you are. You are an orphan adopted, given a new name, chosen and treasured…and loved. What a powerful word.

5. You are not your reputation.

I barely even recognize any more how much of what I do is focused around gaining the acceptance, admiration, or approval of others–whoever those others may be. Your social media followers, your classmates, your coworkers, your inner circle, your teammates, your employer, your teachers, your family, your coach. Every decision you make is influenced by the people around you.

So for one, make sure they’re good people. And for two, make sure you don’t let it define you.

In reality, there is only one accolade we should be striving for. And that is, at the end of the day, to see his face, and hear his voice: Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

May you have the strength to climb the mountains and the faith to make them tremble. Remember, his grace is sufficient for you.

Blessings,
Bre

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Who You Are

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WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.

Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.

Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…

My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…

And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.

And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”

And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.

Boy, does that strike home.

Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.

And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.

And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.

And also…they don’t go unseen by God.

Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.

But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.

Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.

And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.

And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.

This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.

But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?

We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.

He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.

That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.

I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.

It was really nothing.

And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.

So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.

He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….

2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord, give us your eyes.

Bre

Fractures

About six months ago I was at a youth retreat (my original post following it can be found here), and the speaker shared three simple principles that have been on my mind the last week or so:

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Communion: n. the state of being united as one with another (co-union)

1. We were created for communion. That’s what Eden was. Adam and Eve, they literally went on walks with God, the creator of the universe and igniter of the stars. God and man enjoyed each other. The thing is, because we were created for communion, if we don’t find it with God, we start looking for it in other places. For instance, the communion within a family, a marriage, is intended to be healthy, a reflection of our communion with God. But take God out of the picture, and you start looking for that communion in extramarital sex, same-gender attraction…We seek satisfaction from the pacifiers: friends, school, career, extracurriculars, achievements, escape–but pacifiers don’t meet the real need, and you’re always left still hungry, even if the baby stops crying for a while. In Eden, God came looking for us, but we hid because we knew we’d done wrong. But even when I’m hiding in the closet from my heavenly Father, I don’t stop being his daughter, his little girl. Because I’ve been born again, I don’t have to remain beholden to sin. I’m just holding onto chains already broken.

2. My sin violates communion. So when I became a Christian, when I was cleansed of my sins, I had communion. That’s one kind of communion, the communion that means I won’t be separated from God forever. But what about the sins I committed today? It fractures communion. It breaks it. It puts a wall between me and God. Jesus came so that communion could be restored, but sin breaks that. Yes, he forgives, he cleanses, and he has defeated sin. But let’s face it: I don’t have a perfect relationship with God. There, I said it! And when I’m feeling that gap between me and God, well, it means there’s a fracture in communion.

3. Communion can be restored by confession and repentance. Not in an endless cycle kind of way, but in an oh, so this explains why I’m having this problem kind of way. Real quick:

Confession: admitting your sins to God (I work with kids, and we explain it as basically tattling on yourself) Repentance: turning away from your sin

So basically, the thing these three key ideas revealed to me in a new way was the direct relationship between my sin and my closeness to God. Sounds basic perhaps, but, well, it’s easy to miss, isn’t it? In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with everything imaginable thrown at us, in a world where certain sins are culturally acceptable and even celebrated, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. And it’s easy for some sins to seem less than others. And it’s easy to make excuses, to justify and rationalize until the situation becomes to convoluted with “technically”s and “well, at least…”s that you’d think we’d realize that the fact that we feel we need to provide all this justification of our own only proves the case that it’s not right at all. It’s easy for some sins to seem small. It’s easy for habits to not be counted. Maybe that’s why, at camps and retreats, we can feel so much closer to God, in such a purer way. It’s because we’re not just away from distractions and obvious temptations, but away from habits. Habits like breaking your parents’ rules or snapping at your siblings. “Oh, it’s nothing. It doesn’t really matter.” I’ve realized that maybe that explains some of the distance. That, well, maybe there are some sins in my life that need to go. Oh, not the big, weighty, abstract things–it’s the small but real disobediences fracturing communion and sowing rocks. So may you, as well, find what causes fractures in your communion. May you offer it as a sacrifice on the altar and watch it burn. May you experience the purifying freshness of his Spirit and his grace falling on you like rain and may you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.

Blessings,
Bre