Tag Archives: identity

Confidence from God

23 Jul

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We were sitting at a table eating lunch in the Rainforest Café of the Mall of America when my high-school boyfriend suggested we go try rock climbing. Even though it sounded sort of fun, I vehemently refused. What if I was horrible at it? What if I made a fool of myself?

Fast forward 5 years. My college boyfriend (and future husband) asked me what year the Declaration of Independence was signed. I timidly suggested “1774”. Then he asked what temperature water freezes at. I asked “30 degrees?” He scoffed in disbelief that I didn’t know these basic facts, and I felt dumber than dumb (and madder than heck). One fight and apology later, I vowed to never venture a conjecture on facts again.

Fast forward another 5 years. I was riding in the car with some girlfriends from small group at church and laughed LOUD at something that was said. All of a sudden, I was hyper-aware of myself and wondered if the other girls thought I was completely obnoxious. I didn’t talk (or laugh) for the rest of the night.

Then there was the time I was in Salt Lake City to time a triathlon with a co-worker. Unbeknownst to me, I got my directions completely mixed up so that I thought east was west. When I realized that I was discombobulated, my head spun and I felt a slice of my identity as “the girl good with directions” die.

Even though I believe that our relationships with people are what matter most in life, they are also the source of much angst, heartache and self-doubt. I’ve heard many a Christian lament their “fear of man” or struggle with people-pleasing. We know that we shouldn’t put so much stock in what other people think of us, but somehow, we just can’t get ourselves to stop caring.

I think part of our problem is the way that Christian leaders sometimes motivate us. They exhort us to live in such a way that “people can’t help but notice something different about you.” Even if they don’t say that outright, they often tell a story of an unbeliever walking up to a believer and saying, “I notice something different about you. What do you have that I don’t?” Those believers listening who have never had such an experience start wondering why they haven’t. What should they be doing differently?

I have listened numerous times to an excellent sermon called Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller on 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” Tim Keller’s sermon gave me the confidence and biblical footing to stop over-analyzing my life. I live my life on the basis of my relationship with God and by the Spirit’s leading. Whoever notices or doesn’t notice is inconsequential – believers and unbelievers alike. Like Paul, I live for the approval of one person: God Himself.

Obviously, I haven’t always had this confidence. And if I’m being honest, I don’t always have it now. But I have it most days. So what changed?

I realized that God loves who I am. In fact, God created me to be EXACTLY who I am. Something I like to remind myself of to kill Satan’s weapons of self-doubt is “The only wrong with me is sin.” No, I am not perfect. Yes, I have a long way to go to be the Christian, wife, mother and friend I want to be. But my love for endurance sports? My sarcastic sense of humor? My love of reading, writing and romantic comedies? My complete ineptitude at trivia and basic facts of life? Those are the me that God created.

When we embrace the fact that God created us to be who we are, and that who we are is a good thing (aside from sin), we can see our strengths and weaknesses in the light of truth. One of the most freeing realizations I’ve ever had was “I don’t have to be everything. I can just be me.” It’s ok that I have horrible hand-eye coordination. It’s ok that I can’t throw a Frisbee to save my life. I can’t remember dates or names, but I remember faces. I remember where I was when I was thinking about x, or what I was doing when I heard about y. I remember where on the page something I read in a book is located, and can memorize entire passages when they’re something that really resonates with me.

So no one is going to mistake me for a professional baseball player or ask me to join their team at trivia night. And that’s ok. It’s also ok if I play Big Buck Hunter and don’t kill a single deer. Or if I’m asked to retrieve a Frisbee only to launch it at a right angle into the bushes. Or if I laugh too loud at something that wasn’t necessarily funny. Or if it took me 25 years to learn the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and water freezes at 32 degrees (and that I googled both before publishing this just to verify).

This confidence is from something much deeper than just saying, “This is the way I am.” Rather, my confidence comes from a deep soul-belief that this is who God created me to be and that in Christ, I already have God’s approval. Actually… not just His approval, but also His lavish and abundant love!

So whenever I am tempted to worry about what other people think about me, or wonder about the impression they got from something I did, I go back to these truths: The only thing wrong with me is sin. The God of the universe loves who I am. I am who God created me to be. Who I am is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still called to be loving to others. Embracing who I am is not a license to mow down anyone who gets in my way. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13). Rather, just as Tim Keller says in his sermon that I linked to above (seriously, listen to it!), the more confident I am about who I am in Christ, the less time I spend thinking about myself. And the less I think about myself, the more time I have to spend thinking for and about others.

{This idea is what people often refer as “finding your identity in God” but as I almost always find pithy sayings like that quite unhelpful, I felt the need to expound on the idea.}

Surrender + Reality

7 Nov

I’ve been reading “When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box” by John Ortberg and I really liked this:

Surrender is not passivity or abdication. It is saying yes to God and life each day. It is accepting the gifts he has given me — my body, my mind, my biorhythms, my energy. It is letting go of my envy or desire for what he has given someone else. It is letting go of outcomes that in reality I cannot accept anyway. I surrender my ambitions, my dreams, my money, my relationships, my marital status, my time, and my desires to God.

Surrender means I accept reality…

Surrender means giving up ultimate mastery of my life…

“Only if one experiences that God is good is it possible to surrender to him unconditionally one’s whole heart, soul, and being.”

I’ve been thinking lately how the gospel enables us to fully acknowledge reality. Instead of trying to convince myself that I’m a good person by turning a blind eye to all the bad things I’ve done, I can face them head-on and accept that I’m not a good person on my own. I can acknowledge that I’m not everything I want to be — and rest there. I can be content in who I am and not strive to be someone I’m not. I can trust that God has ordained this moment, this day, this life for me — that I didn’t somehow miss the memo that He had planned for me to be a missionary in Zimbabwe instead of a marketing copywriter in Denver. When we truly believe that everything we have and are is from God, we can stop questioning, worrying and comparing.

Tim Keller has an amazing (free!) sermon (and now, a short book based on it) called Blessed Self-Forgetfulness. I found a CD of old sermons that I’ve been listening to in the car during my commute and that sermon was on it. Keller talks about how everyday, as humans with fragile egos, we’re in the courtroom. All of our actions are either stamping evidence for the prosecutor or the defense. The case being decided is: Am I a good person? Am I valuable? Am I important? Am I loved?

Because Christ went to trial for me, and was unjustly accused and put to death in my place, I can leave the courtroom. Court is adjourned. The verdict is in. And that verdict is:

Righteous.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

What does that mean? It means God finds no fault with me. That I am perfect, holy and eternally valuable in His eyes. It means the Father loves me with the same love He has for Jesus Himself.

Keller uses the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4 to make the point, it doesn’t matter what other people think about me. It doesn’t even matter what I think about me. Only God’s opinion matters. And He says I’m righteous in Christ.

That is why I can accept the full reality of my life. Because in Christ, the reality is I am holy and I am loved.

Being Me.

18 Nov

Over the past week, I’ve had some frequent thoughts pop into my head:

“I’m not a fast enough runner.”

“My blog isn’t as cool as that person’s.”

“My sense of style is boring.”

“I’m not doing enough with my life.”

“I’m completely awkward in situations like this.”

“Nobody likes me.”

These thoughts aren’t new.

But the way I’m responding to them is.

Instead of agreeing with those thoughts and wishing I was a different way as a result, I’ve countered them.

“God created me specifically to be me.

I am the only person who can be me.

And I am holy and loved by God.”

Instead of worrying about how other people perceive me, or how much they like me, or how the world measures what I’m worth, I’m living in the daily truth that God has validated me. I am already loved. I am already approved. He loves and delights in me. And now in Christ, I am free to be the person God created me to be.

I am free to be a slow runner with an excellent attitude.

I am free to be awkward and bad at small talk in social situations.

I am free to be introspective and analytic, instead of a happy-go-lucky, always cheerful person.

I want to go through this life, not enduring or accepting the person God created me to be, but embracing it. Loving it. Appreciating it. Marveling at it. Delighting in it. Refining it. Purifying it.

I am finally beginning to believe the truth of Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

I may not be everything I would have chosen, had I been given the choice. But I wasn’t given the choice. God decided who I would be, according to His good and perfect will. And His works are wonderful.

“This God – his way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30

In Christ, I am exactly who God wants me to be. I am chosen and beloved. I praise Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I want to live in thankfulness of His gift of life.

How are you thanking God for who you are today?

Hiking is Humbling.

16 Sep

It’s no secret that I’m not a fast swimmer, biker or runner. When I tell people that I do triathlons, I always mention that I do them “for fun” and not for “breaking any records.” When people ask if I did well in a particular race, I usually say, “Yes… for me,” I guess to avoid the misrepresentation that I won an award or something.

And for the most part, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never be “fast” relative to other triathletes. I mean, the female winners from these races do the swim in less than 1/2 the time it takes me (I’m too lazy to figure out what their speed is), their average bike pace is usually somewhere around 20 mph, and their average run pace is somewhere around 6-7 minutes/mile. Yeah, I can’t compete with that.

So what’s an athlete like me to do?

It all comes down to the PRs – Personal Records. Trying to better your time for a certain distance. This presents a problem with the sprint triathlon distance, as hardly any race is the same as the next (though the most official distance is exactly half of an Olympic).

Yeah, I haven’t been good at that either. My half marathon times have progressively gotten slower and my triathlon times are pretty much in that boat as well.

Ok, I can deal with that. I’m still getting out there, having a good time. Plus, I’m willing to sacrifice the PRs in order to maintain my sanity and balance.

But then there are situations that just steam me. Like hiking on the Eaglesmere Trail. Or hiking Pancake Rocks. Or hiking in North Carolina.

Ok, hiking in general.

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it – I can be in the best shape of my life and still cough, wheeze, and drag up a hill on a hike.

And it pisses me off.

It’d be one thing if the hike was challenging and everyone else was coughing, wheezing and dragging up right with me. But no, they’re just floating up the hill, without a single bead of sweat staining their brow or even so much as a slight increased need for oxygen.

Ok, maybe that’s just Travis.

But seriously, whenever I go hiking, it seems like everyone else is in better shape than I am. 

Which also would be fine if I knew that they were. If they were out there running marathons and doing Ironmans, and busting out 10 hours of intense exercise a week, I’d hand it to them. I’d applaud them.

But usually they’re not.

Usually they’re like Travis – they do intentional exercise 2-3 times a week, but usually only for about 30-45 minutes.

Sometimes they don’t exercise regularly at all.

And then here I come, all puffed up with my “I just did an Olympic triathlon” and “I ran 7 miles 3 weeks ago” attitude, and wilt like a frickin’ popsicle on pavement walking up the hill.

These were my thoughts during our NC Labor Day hike:

Wait, isn’t this a lower elevation than Denver? Doesn’t that mean I should be able to sprint all the way to the top?

Wait, isn’t Sarah pregnant? Didn’t she just say that she hasn’t worked out in 4 months due to nausea? How then is she beating me up this hill?

I did not handle that situation well in the moment. Instead, I got huffy as I puffed slowly up the mountain. I eventually got over it at the top but I’d like to eventually get over it before it starts.

I mean, this is a ridiculous problem. But such is the nature of pride. You try to squelch it in one form, and it pops up in another. Just as soon as I came to grips with being a slow triathlete, I became enraged at being a slow hiker.

My mentally unstable way of thinking is that I’ve put so much effort and time into getting to where I am today that it is totally unfair that other people (like my husband) are so naturally athletic. Travis could sit on the couch for a month and go out and run faster than I could if I did intense speed work for 6 months. (Ok, this is just a conjecture because Travis couldn’t sit still that long and I will never do intense speed work for 6 months. But still, I’m pretty sure it’s true.)

But in the end, my hiking handicap is really a blessing in disguise. If it hadn’t been for my completely unnecessary anger outburst in North Carolina, I wouldn’t have come to the realization (yet again) that my identity is wrapped up in how “athletic” and “in shape” I am. I want people’s praise for doing triathlons. I want people to think I’m a mean, lean, triathloning machine. I don’t want them to see that I still struggle up the side of a hill or that I’m not invincible. I don’t want to show weakness.

God knows that I constantly go to things other than Him to try to prove that I’m worth something, that I’m someone special (try being the operative word). But that way of life will leave me constantly dissatisfied and jealous of other people. Instead of being able to appreciate the talents God has given other people, I end up scheming in the corner about how to make myself just as good (or drowning my sorrows over not being just as good).

I’m like this with a number of things: clothes, success, body size. Measuring myself against others. Feeling good if I measure up. Feeling horrible if I don’t.

Our women’s book study just started at church for the fall and I chose to go through Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I’m really praying that this study will help free me from these struggles (because regardless of the specific struggle, it all comes from the same source of dissatisfaction) and release me into the freedom of embracing who God created me to be – body shape, quirks, slowness and all – in order that I might appreciate and love others for who they are. God has made each of us unique masterpieces (like snowflakes!) and I am missing out if I can’t appreciate another woman without competing with her.

Hopefully I’ll have some updates later on.

As for the triathlon tomorrow, I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do it. You’ll have to stay tuned!

Releasing my identity.

3 May

This post has been in the works for the past month. I’m sure I’ll discover more in the future that could be added to it.

It all started the day I was pondering why changing jobs made me feel like a completely different person. I was obviously still me – I’ll be me for all of eternity. But I felt different. I identified myself as a different person. Before, I worked in an office doing marketing for a nonprofit ministry. Now I worked at home coordinating volunteers and vendors for a nonprofit racing company.

I realized how much of our identities are dependent on and relative to external factors. When a person does engineering, they say “I am an engineer.” When a woman has a baby, she says “I am a mother.” When two people get married, they say “We are married.” In the Spanish language, there are 2 forms of the verb “to be” – there is the permanent, definitive form “ser” and there is the temporary, transient form “estar.” All of the sentences I wrote above would use the permanent form. “I am [these things]”, which is just another way of saying “These things are me.”

We define ourselves by external things, whether we want to or not. Even making the objection “I don’t define myself by external things” is defining yourself – you are identifying yourself as a person who does not identify themselves.

This is made even more evident when trying to ponder what you think makes up your identity. How do you identify yourself? Some people would say “I’m a friend, a brother, a boyfriend.” Relationships to other people. Other people would say “I’m smart, energetic, playful, and funny.” But without examples of stupidity, laziness, seriousness, and boring in other people or situations, we would have nothing on which to gauge our individual attributes. Still other people would revert to their careers, (“I’m a lawyer”), their hobbies (“I’m a golfer”), their possessions (“I’m a millionaire”), their prestige (“I’m a Harvard grad”), or their success (“I’m the youngest CEO in this company’s history.”) Notice how all of those statements are relative to something external.

Try to think of something you could say about yourself that isn’t related to something outside of yourself. Even statements about emotions you embody, like “I am compassionate,” can only be true as they find expression outside of yourself. You can say you’re compassionate – but it is not proven until you are compassionate toward someone else.

When D and I were in Salt Lake City 2 weekends ago, we got lost driving from our hotel to the race site. I usually know which direction is north, but I had gotten totally turned around. What I thought was north actually was south. D suggested we just follow the directions I had written down instead of trying to figure out which direction was which. I got really offended and even at the time, I knew it was a silly thing to be mad over. Looking back on it later, I realized that being good with directions (not just ones from Google but the compass directions) was part of my identity. I had been subconsciously thinking of myself “I am good with directions and can find my way around easily.” When that identity was questioned or threatened, I got defensive and angry.

Since that trip, numerous other situations have revealed facets of my so-called identity – facets I didn’t even know about, facets that only reveal themselves when challenged, threatened or belittled.

I have become increasingly aware of the reason why the Bible commands us to find our identity in Christ. God knows that we, as humans, naturally find our identities outside of ourselves. We use the world around to us to figure it out. Even as Christians, God doesn’t expect us to figure out who we are by ourselves, by looking inside of us. Instead, He tells us who we are. He shows us whose we are. And He tells us to find our identities in Christ.

What does that mean – to find our identity in Christ? It’s one of those phrases that is thrown around a lot and I wonder how many people pause long to think about the meaning of what they’re saying. I think finding your identity in Christ means to let every other definition of yourself die, so that the only one remaining is that of a sinner saved by grace. If indeed that was the only definition you were clinging to, there would be nothing in this world that could shake you, disturb you, frustrate you, or disappoint you.

My struggle with feeling like I should be doing more than I am doing and my resulting feelings of guilt, I think, come from wanting to identify myself as a person who makes a difference. I am trying to make my identity be something other than Christ and of course, am encountering emotional turmoil. That is the sure result of ever trying to identify ourselves with something other than Christ.

Right now, I am re-reading Desiring God by John Piper and then I am going to re-read We Would See Jesus. Two amazing books full of the exact truths that I need to hear right now. Here is one of the life-changing passages from We Would See Jesus, that especially applies to my feeling of needing to serve:

“At first sight it seems heroic to fling our lives away in the service of God and of our fellows. We feel it is bound to mean more to Him than our experience of Him. Service seems so unselfish, whereas concentrating on our walk with God seems selfish and self-centered. But it is the very reverse. The things that God is most concerned about are our coldness of heart towards Himself and our proud, unbroken natures…

“This does not mean that God does not want us engaged actively in His service. He does; but His purpose is often far different from what we think. Our service, in His mind, is to be far more the potter’s wheel on which He can mold us than the achieving of those spectacular objectives on which we set our hearts.”

Piper echoes this sentiment – that we exist to glorify God and we glorify God by enjoying Him. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” When we are satisfied in Christ being our only identity. When we have to hold onto nothing of this world to validate who we are. We don’t have to have the right job, the right clothes, car, body, hair, face, talent, personality, friends, hobbies, or service.

This is most liberating thought in the world to me. I can enjoy movies, flowers, thunderstorms, ice cream, good books, warm blankets, lazy Sundays, and my wonderful husband because they all reveal God to me. He is present in everything. I am here to know God and to enjoy Him. And only one thing is sufficient for defining myself: I am a sinner, saved by grace alone through Christ alone.

I still want to serve the needy somehow. But the feeling of guilt is gone. I am not just here to make this world a better place – I am here to know God and can do that in many different ways. I am a treasure to God, regardless of what I do for His kingdom. He just wants me to know and love Him about everything else. And when that is my focus, everything else feels manageable. He alone is my reward and my prize.

The best me

15 Jun

Lately, I have felt discombobulated and unlike myself. I’ve lost all desire to cook and grocery shop. I don’t even have much energy to make more than a bowl of cereal to eat. I feel lazy when it comes to reading the Bible and other books. I’d rather sleep in than work out in the morning and I update my triathlon blog more out of guilt than excitement.

What happened? I got off track. My schedule got derailed and I haven’t been able to re-rail it. Instead of following a predictable order, my day is a jumble of necessities, thrown together in a haphazard manner.

It’s at times like this that I have two main thoughts running through my mind. One, I envy people who have the same routine day after day, year after year. How do they stay “on track” amidst the chaos of life? I can get into a routine for about a week and then something happens that knocks everything off kilter and I have to find a new routine (which only lasts for a week before being replaced by a new one). I had gotten in to a routine of getting in the Word during lunch. All it takes is a day when I have to skip my lunch to take Travis to the airport and before I know it, 4 days have gone by without my getting in the Word.

Two, I am amazed by people who work full-time, have families, volunteer in their community, serve at church, and bake cookies for sick children at the hospital. Ok, I’ll be honest. I don’t actually know anyone like that. But I do know several busy people. My older brother Brian for one. It seems like he always has 50 different projects going on at once. I don’t know how he stays sane amidst it all. I wouldn’t even say that I have a busy life and I struggle with keeping it all together.

Which makes me wonder, where does all my time go? Especially lately, with the triathlon training. I feel inadequately disciplined to get everything done that I think I should be doing. Like my New Year’s Resolutions? For the past several months, even just getting time in the Word has been a struggle, let alone listening to a sermon outside of church, memorizing verses, and praying regularly. As I list all those things, I know ways that I could squeeze them into my day. But when I get busy, I tend to get lazy. I push things off with the excuse “I’m too tired.”  

Anyway, I did not mean this post to be a lament at how much I fail at achieving my own goals. Rather, I meant it to be a reflection on what I am learning about myself. I am not a person who sticks to a routine. I am not anal about my schedule and I can be steered from my pattern very easily. I don’t have an obsessive personality so I will never truly excel at one specific thing. Rather, I will be more of a Jack of All Trades, being mediocre at many things. And I’m ok with that.

I’m also learning that God did create me to be a busy person. That’s not my personality, natural inclination, or even my gifting. I can handle busyness for only so long before I have a breakdown and cry for at least an hour (which happened many times in college). I am not a person who likes or can handle having every second of every day crammed with activity, meetings, friends, To-Do’s, and errands. I need down time. I need time to read, exercise, take naps, blog, and veg in front of the TV.

For so long I have seen these traits in myself and wanted to change them. Why can’t I be more disciplined? Why can’t I stick to a routine against all odds? Why can’t I work full time and have 5 different extracurricular activities? Why can’t I work full time and have even one?

I’m not trying to sell myself short but I don’t want to insist that I be someone I’m not before I believe that I’ve reached my “true potential.” It’s a fact that I will never be a social butterfly, never be the person who meets random strangers everywhere I go and have thousands of acquaintances. That’s not who I am. 

It’s so easy to get trapped into thinking that as a Christian, I have to act and be like other Christians. The president of the ministry I work for is a very outgoing (some would say obnoxious) person, sharing the gospel with complete strangers constantly. I admire his extroversion because I am not. And while I know that my introversion is sometimes sinful, I don’t believe that I have to become extroverted in order to be an effective witness.

What I want to know is how I can be the best me, not attempt to a version of someone else. God created me the way I am, including my whimsicalness and propensity for relaxation, for a reason. As a woman made in God’s image, I showcase His glory in a unique way, in a way that people with routines and busy lives don’t (and they showcase His glory in their own unique way too, as long as they’re believers). Instead of fighting who I am, or striving to be someone I am not, I want to embrace who I am and what I’m like. I want to use it to glorify God and not lament who He created me to be. I want to reach my full potential, as I am, and not waste the precious time and personality He has given me.

How easy it is for Satan to get ahold of our minds and make us discontent by getting us to envy someone else who we think is better/prettier/skinnier/wealthier/happier!! Just tonight I was jealous because Travis is a better biker than me, even though I’ve been training for a tri for the past 3 months and he has ridden a bike once in the past year. My sinful flesh screamed “It’s not fair!! Why can’t I be better than him for once?” Similarly, with all the exercise I’ve been doing, I get frustrated that I’m not miraculously losing weight. “It’s not fair! Why can’t I just be thin for once?”

Loving Father that He is, God turns me back to Himself time and time again. “Kathy, that is not where happiness lies. Even if you were to be better than Travis and have a flat stomach, you would still desire something more. I am that Something More. I am the fulfillment of the yearning in your heart. Me and Me alone.”

Praise the Father for His faithfulness and steadfastness! How reassuring to know that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I change moment to moment, never sticking to a routine or schedule, but He never changes. He is perfect so I don’t have to be.

“Though I be dry and barren

By grace this love springs forth

Love for You and Your kingdom

Joy in Your glory Lord.”

 

“Jesus my only hope, my only plea,

My righteousness, My Great High Priest,

Who intercedes before the throne,

Jesus I trust in You alone!”