faith personal writing Praise

Identity.

February 11, 2014
It all started one morning on my way to church. X was in LA so I would be making the drive by myself, which was fine, except there was a huge snowstorm this particular morning and it occurred to me that I’d never paid attention on how to actually get to church before because I had always been in the passenger seat, applying my makeup or preoccupied with my phone/emails/catching up on blogs. So on this morning, I got in my car and thought, Relax, Em. You’ve got Siri now and you’ve got plenty of time. You could even get there early enough to get a front row seat. I had just gotten my first ever iPhone and was excited to tell this Siri woman to get me directions, especially having been completely directionally challenged my whole life. So I told her where I needed to go and she responded confidently, repeating the directions, and I felt good. I was in control. Me and Siri heading to church, way ahead of schedule. I even stopped halfway there to grab a coffee at Starbucks. But as I got back on the road, I kept driving and driving, for what felt like another half hour (it was totally another half hour of driving). And the more I drove, the harder it snowed and the slower I had to go. I looked at the time and said, “Seriously, Siri? You’re gonna make me so freaking late. You totally took me the wrong way.” (Yes, I literally said this out loud to her.) It was like I was driving in circles and I could feel my teeth clenching. (I found out later, I was going in circles. Literally driving in circles around Naperville.) And suddenly, I realized I was not in control anymore. And I was definitely going to be late. Finally, Siri said to me in this now totally cocky tone (I was SO not feelin’ Siri by this point, can you tell?), “You have reached your destination. Destination on left.”
Except it wasn’t. There was no church in sight, I was smack in the middle of a neighborhood. I looked to my left and a man, who had been shoveling his driveway, stopped to stare at me as I loudly shouted swear words at Siri. This guy’s Golden Retriever even stopped to stare at me as I had a complete meltdown in the middle of 2nd Street.
This was so not what I had planned! This is totally this freakin’ phone’s fault! I am going to show up to church 30 minutes late! Everyone will be staring at me when I go in! What if I’m missing something like really important?! What if today’s message was like super important for me to hear?! Siri, you are evil! 
I called X, gave him a quick recap of the situation (more swear words), and told him I was going home. I’d catch the service online but I’d rather go home than show up super late. He calmly talked reason into my complete irrational thinking (because after all, for me this was no longer about actually making it to church, but more about how I was totally not in control anymore and how this was just not ME to arrive someplace super late, and you know what this was not what I’d planned, darn it anyway). X got on his computer to find out where I was, gave me new directions, and by the Grace of God, I found the church. I quietly walked in, was greeted by warm smiles of people who had no idea I’d just sworn my whole way to church, and quickly sat down in the back. I had missed the worship at the beginning of the service but had made it just in time for the sermon. The sermon on how we are not in control, not even the least bit. How God’s plans are NOT always our plans. And to LET. GO. And I tell you, at that very moment, a spotlight shot right down on me as my eyes welled up with tears and more tears.  *Gulp*  Oh, yes. Clearly God did have a message for me. And I’d made it just in time. 
When I was in Kindergarten and my mom came to pick me up after the first day of school, my teacher said to her, “Emily may have a difficult time in school.” My mom, surprised, asked her, “Why?” My teacher replied, “Because she thinks that everyone likes her.” My mom, being the ever protective mama bear, gave her a stern look and said, “And why is that a problem?” The teacher said, “Well because not everyone likes everyone.” 
As harsh as that may have been for a Kindergarten teacher to say, that mean ol’ lady was right. Not everyone likes everyone, and no, not everyone was going to like me.  I wouldn’t be able to make people love me. I wouldn’t be able to make people honor me, or control what they thought of me. And this still stands true today and will still be true tomorrow.
So here is the ultimate question: What gives you your identity to others?
Is it that you have everything handled? You’re cool as a cucumber and you’ve got it all under control? Is it the way you look? The clothes you wear or the accessories you pair it with? Is it your marriage that gives you your identity? Your car? Maybe it’s your house and the things inside. Is it the number of followers you have on Twitter? How many re-tweets you get? Is it that a lot of people like you? Honor you? Love you? Maybe it’s things you create. People know you as an amazing writer, blogger, designer, cook. Maybe you’re the really funny, sarcastic one and this is how people know you. And some or all of those things are what give you your identity.
Here’s the thing. All of those things I just mentioned can be great things. They can all be things that bring us joy and connect us to others and color our lives. My husband sure adds color to my life, and our marriage is something I am grateful for daily. I love that people always say to me, when they come to visit, “I always feel so comfortable and at home when I come over here!” That makes me feel good, to know that our guests love coming over to our home and spending time here. Of course it makes me feel great to get compliments on the newest bobble I’ve worn. When someone tells me I look pretty. Or how about when I’m the first (and let’s be honest, only) person my friends send a text to when a Michael Bolton song comes on the radio? And as a new public blogger, I am straight up giddy with excitement when I get a new follower/reader, even more so when they write to tell me they really liked one of my posts. But can I tell you something? I pray that those things aren’t what give me my ultimate identity, especially to others. I pray to God that at the end of my life, it wasn’t about my career, my writing abilities, my cute clothes, or even about my marriage. It wasn’t about how many people liked me or honored me or even loved me. I pray that it wasn’t about what I was able to control and how well MY plans turned out. That it was never about me. I pray that it was always about Him. That my identity was someone who always sided with Jesus. That I wasn’t just kind to people and showed them my love, but that I showed them the kindness and love of Jesus. 
And do I fail miserably in this? In remembering this and putting it into action? Um, yeah. Like every single day I fail to do this completely. But you know? Every single day I’m reminded of His grace. That it’s never too late. And to try again. And so, I do. And if my biggest reminder each day is that my identity is in Him, I don’t have to worry about always having a plan. I’m not supposed to, because He already has one for me. My God, Creator of the universe, was and is and will always be in control. And surely that’s reason enough for me to let go. Because He loves me. And He loves you.
heart image via we heart it

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  • I absolutely love this post and adore your heart. Thanks for sharing this honest and hard and so convicting truth today! I randomly looked to see who was following me on twitter, found you and your blog and so glad I did. Thanks for this encouragement today!

    • Hi Lauren!! Thank you so much for your note. I love "random" connections (and how God does that), and am so glad to have you as a new blogger friend!! πŸ™‚ XOXO

  • Thank you for sharing this! One of the sermons at my church a couple weeks ago was all about how we shape our identity – whether we shape it by what others think of us and how we stand in comparison to others or whether our identity is our relationship with God. The sermon really affected me- so often I slide into trying to build my identity off what others think and it just feels empty. It has high highs and very low lows. I'm now really trying to ditch that and find my identity through God, which is hard but has been so worthwhile. Ah sorry about my rambling- your post just really resonated with me!

    • Oh my gosh, this wasn't rambling at all! Sounds like you, too, heard exactly what you were supposed to hear at the perfect time that day πŸ™‚ I know I walked out of church feeling a million pounds lighter, and so, so loved. I am so grateful for the constant reminders πŸ™‚ XO