By Joy Ballard
Finding your identity can be a challenge as you juggle many roles. But I want to encourage you today with my story and the truths in God’s Word.
The Common Answer for Identity
One of the hardest questions to answer is: Who are you? If you’ve ever had the experience of being the new person at a small group gathering, you know the awkward feeling of fumbling through your words when asked to share a little bit about yourself.
First of all, how can one summarize decades of life into a “little bit”? And secondly, why do a few superficial statements feel so empty?
In that scenario, most people don’t answer the question by describing themselves, but rather by telling what they do. In case you haven’t come across this vitally important truth yet: WHO YOU ARE IS NOT WHAT YOU DO.
But then, who are you? What is your identity?
Searching for Your Identity
You could look for the answer in books, podcasts, and blogs. There are dozens of personality profiling tests that can tell you something about yourself.
You could turn to your relationships. Some of them have been telling you who you are since birth, for better or worse. Others you look to for confirmation of who you are, guidance and inspiration, or as a comparison marker for who you wish to be.
You could listen to the cultural voices that say you are strong because you are a woman and that you should find within yourself the value you are craving.
There are threads of truth in all those sources. It is important to understand our personality so we can better relate to others. It’s important to find healthy relationships that inspire and propel us toward our best selves. And it is important to value ourselves as women and what we bring to the world.
But, that’s not enough.
Finding Your Identity
Identity is not just about self. If you look up the etymology of the word “identity” you will find that there is no reference to “self” in it’s meaning. It is all about what or who you identify with. Identity is more about sameness and likeness than about uniqueness.
Ironically, while a lot of people spend energy, time and money trying to find their unique self or “identity”, they end up being just like someone else. We cannot fully define ourselves by just looking within ourselves.
Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. Ultimately, if who we are is defined by who we identify with, who are you going to choose to identify with?
Choosing Identity in Jesus
I don’t know about you, but I want to be known as a person of peace, grace and kindness. I want to be unique in that I’m comfortable in my own skin and can pour myself into my God-given interests and abilities without concern for how another person succeeds. I want to be able to give when I don’t think I have anything left, to love when it’s hardest, and to hope when it makes no sense.
I know I can’t do all that by just mustering up whatever I can find within myself. I have to transcend who I am and reach for whose I am. I belong to Jesus. I am an adopted daughter who was chosen on purpose and with delight.
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:4-5, NLT)
Relationship Matters in Identity
It is no coincidence that God chose to use deeply relational words in the Bible to define the relationship he desires to have with us. Daughter, friend and bride are some of the ways he describes us. He uses words with which we are familiar to help us understand the meaningful relationship we can have with him.
Relationships do give us a sense of identity. We are relational beings and relationships play a big role in the formation of our identity. The defining factor about Christianity as compared to other belief systems is that God desires intimate relationships with his people. He also created us in his image, yielding the true definition of our identity.
We must be willing to go beyond ourselves and accept we don’t innately have everything we need. We don’t like to be dependable on others because life has taught us that relationships fail. Yet this is no ordinary relationship, but the purest and most trustworthy relationship with the One who gave everything for you.
If you feel lost in the shuffle of life, up to your knees in the mess of kids, marriage, or pain, or confusion, reach out to the One you can always trust. In seeking Jesus, you will find your real identity.
Redefining Identity in Christ
But let me challenge you on what that means. There are too many catchphrases in Christianity today which necessitate some breaking down and redefining.
Beware of defining a relationship with Jesus by what you do. Going to church, attending a Bible study, volunteering in Sunday School, donating to the local non-profit, going on a mission trip, participating in outreach, reading all the Christian bestsellers and listening to Christian radio–all these things are not the same as an actual relationship.
Let’s put it this way: if you went to your husband’s office, said nice things about him to your girlfriends, volunteered to drive your kids to their sports events, got him gifts, participated in cheering on his favorite sports team, read and listened to what people say about him… would that equal a vibrant and deep relationship WITH him?
He would probably appreciate all that. It might mean a lot. Unless you completely ignored him, never spent time alone with him, and never shared your heart with him. Then all those activities would seem completely empty and meaningless to him.
That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
Relationship with Jesus requires much more attention, focus, and brutal honesty than most of us make time for. It is much more mystery and discovery than activity and accomplishment. As life goes, the most valuable things in life that we all really want require our full heart, not just a simple list of steps.
So, who are you, really?
If you are new to a relationship with Jesus or it has been a while since you have felt close to him, pick one of these practices as a step toward him:
- Journal your honest thoughts to him every morning
- Take a daily walk and pay attention to his gifts of nature and life
- Read through the Psalms or the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
- Make a gratitude list that you add to every day
By taking these steps, you can find or rediscover your true identity in Christ alone.
Wife Step: Choose one of the practices mentioned above for a whole month and record in a journal how drawing closer to Jesus has more clearly defined your sense of purpose and identity by the end of the month.
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography
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