Back in January, I had the opportunity to speak to a congregation in Cincinnati about one of the ways that the Lord moved in my life on the World Race. I ran across this today and it continues to echo in my heart.
January 29th, 2016
The other day I hopped on Facebook and noticed something that I hadn’t before. There is this little line underneath of my profile picture that“Describe Who You Are.” Wow, Facebook. I just wanted to mindlessly observe my friends lives via social media and instead you throw that at me. Think about that for a minute. What would you write?
Who am I? I’m Elizabeth. I’m a Caucasian, American female. I am a teacher. I am a nanny. I am a daughter, a sister, a best friend, a girlfriend. I’m a Fairfield High School graduate, an Anderson University alumnus, and a World Racer. I’m a missionary. I’ve been a squad leader, a photographer, a pastor, a worship leader, a volunteer, and a church member. I am an extrovert (who discovered some serious introvert tendencies this year), and a high feeler. I’ve taken tests that resulted in my ability to tell you my primary of languages, my life wheel priorities, my strengths finder, and colors of ministry.
If I am honest with you all, for most of my life I have chosen something from that list and played the role. I think that it made it seem easier, right? Instead of figuring out who I was created to be or managing to weave them all in together I would become any one of those things as the circumstances required it. Certainly there are aspects of this that are healthy and normal. When we are at home in the presence of our family we are probably slightly more comfortable and vulnerable than when we are up speaking in front of a crowd. When you are a college student there are some very really responsibilities that that role requires of you in order for you to be successful. The dangerous part for me didn’t reveal itself until I arrived in Gainesville, Georgia in October of 2014 to prepare for the World Race.
I went into our training camp week feeling pretty sure of myself. I had all my gear, had done all the research, organized and ordered the squad t shirt, and knew everyone already by name, state, and picture. I know many of you followed my journey via my blog, and so you have gotten to see a lot of these details already, but long story short, from day one the Lord began to strip me of my independence and expectation. I got overwhelmed with all of the people more quickly than I thought I would. Putting up a tent in a mud pit was much different than putting it up in my living room. I got pretty sick early on and ended up stuck in an office out of commission for a full day. I was put on a team of 7 women and when it came time for the staff at Adventures to choose a leader, I wasn’t chosen. All of these incidences in and of themselves may have not woken me up, but all together the Lord used those things to break through my expectations and bring me to a place of brokenness before Him. I want to describe to you the moment that the Lord began to reveal His heart toward me and my identity vs. my role.
Seemingly the entire crowd is exuberantly worshipping. People are dancing and shouting and laughing. This is what I had in mind for me. The loud and the active and the obvious. But no. I feel disconnected and confused. It's as if I am watching myself sit here. I watch and hear myself question. This is not me. I do not question. I am sure. But I listen more closely and hear myself plea "What are You doing?" over and over.
And then I'm crying. Not the pretty kind with glistening tears that you can dab away with a delicate handkerchief. This is the messy, blubbery, can't catch my breath, shaking kind of crying. I never cry.
And I know it is the Spirit.
It is the Spirit - flooding over me in tears and in brokenness. It is the Spirit - untangling my identity from my role. It is the Spirit - filling me the truth about who I am.
I am not my role. I am not a children’s pastor or a daughter or an RA. I am not a missionary or a teacher. I am not independent. I am not self-made.
I am His. I am a daughter of the King. I am a vessel to to be used at the will of the Creator. I am dependent.
It was pretty much an identity crisis. Erik Erikson, the theorist who coined this term, described an identity crisis as a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. When I read this description I see words like “analysis” and “exploration” and it looks to me like the world’s view of an identity crisis is a lot of work. My identity crisis was not a lot of work. It was a change in the direction of my eyes. It was handing over of the tangled mess that I had made to the master who weaves all things together. Turns out that we don’t have to perform or uphold our own expectations of ourselves.
As I headed home and walked through the following months, it wasn’t all easy. In fact, none of it was easy. It was difficult to be jobless after working a full-time job. It was difficult to move out of my apartment and back into my high school bedroom. It was difficult to ask for support and partnership when I’ve been taught to be independent and self-made. But in that season, there was so much grace. The Lord will always be preparing you for what’s next, especially when we have no idea what is next!
God continued to guide my identity crisis as we headed onto the field. Over and over again I was reminded of how much He loved me. He actively pursues us and it brings Him joy when we react to that pursuit. I could tell you countless stories of tangible ways that the Lord reminded me that He was my Father, who gives good things to his children. The most aspect of detangling my identity from my role for me was the freedom that I experienced from anxiety. Here’s the thing. When you are living with a role as your identity the opportunities for failure are everywhere. We hurt someone we love with our words, we miss a deadline for an important paper, we fail an exam, we don’t get the job, we choose ourselves over serving our spouse. In the carnal eye, the one that identifies you as your title or role, there is plenty to fear. We are incapable of living up to the perfect standards that we set for ourselves or have set by the expectations in our culture.
And here is where freedom comes in. When you find your identity in Christ, there is no opportunity for failure. The Lord calls you chosen. He calls you loved. He calls you an heir to all He has. He calls me His. There is literally no context for failure in these things. At the end of the story, Jesus wins. The Kingdom comes. God is timeless. There is no wondering what happens. We can break ties with fear and anxiety by declaring these truths over our lives.
Let’s be real. There will be moments when I fail in my role as a wife or mentor, moments when I am selfish or lazy, moments when I drop the ball. It’s part of being human. This identity crisis is not a one time thing. For me, being home has awakened new levels of walking through this. I am figuring out what it looks like to walk in this new boldness and understanding in a culture full of expectations, social media, and resources. The struggles may look a little different than when I was covered in mud in Africa, but ultimately they have the same roots.
Maybe you find yourself battling against finding your identity in your role as a parent. Maybe it seems like you will have a grasp on who you are when you graduate from high school or college. Maybe success in your job is the scale that you are measuring your worth by. Each of these battles is an opportunity to call on Jesus, look to the identity that He writes all over us, and walk in repentance and truth. You are chosen, called for a purpose, and equipped by the Creator of the universe. It is not too late.