My Identity: from Crisis to Clarity

For what seems like too long, I’ve struggled with my identity. Who am I, really? Other than my given name, I have titles that include; daughter, sister, niece, aunt, wife, mother, speech pathologist, homemaker, and blogger. But, all of these are not the total essence of who I am.

In philosophy, essence is described as, “a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is”. For instance, take a completely designed canvas. The first property is a blank canvas. Next, comes the artist’s conceptualized design. In order to bring the design into existence, the artist must, then, gather all the appropriate materials. The artist proceeds in creating the design. There may be some roadblocks, typically involving trial and error. However, all of these things must take place. This is the essence of the completely designed canvas. Without which, it would just be a blank canvas.

The essence of my identity is much like this. When I was a newborn, I began as a blank canvas. Never encountering, never experiencing, never enduring. With growth, I began to make observations and form concepts. I would plan things that I would have wanted to try. I would have avoided those things that I was discouraged by. And, yes, there have been roadblocks, typically involving taking and making mistakes. However, all of these things had to take place. All of these characterize who I am; without which, my identity would not exist.

I have spent much time encountering, experiencing, and enduring; both good and bad. This ‘group of properties’ have dealt me my fair share of roadblocks- otherwise known as hardships and responsibilities. I’ve learned some lessons from ‘the school of hard knocks‘. And any time I’ve tried to face these obstacles in my own strength, by my own ideals, and with my own efforts I was setting myself up to fail.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not without effect. No I worked harder than all of them- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”- 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV)

I am what I am- the essence of my identity- has been only made possible by the grace of God.

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So profound. I can prove this to be true by my own life’s examples. Whenever hardships and responsibilities have come my way, I’ve acted selfish. I’ve proclaimed, “This isn’t fair!”, “Why me?”, “I don’t want to do it!”, or “This is going to hurt too much.”.

Oh, but, grace. God’s good will, loving-kindness and favor has gifted me with His strength, increased my faith, and nudged me to exercise His virtues. His grace gives me the ability to not take and make those same mistakes over-and-over again.

I’ve encountered, experienced, and endured hardships. But, because of the grace of God, I have increased hopeful expectations, perseverance, and a vigorous disposition.

I’ve encountered, experienced, and endured responsibilities. But, because of the grace of God, I have gained more maturity, determination, and leadership skills.

Indeed, all of these ‘properties’ contribute to the essence of my identity. Yes, it is my actions and reactions that propel me to encounter, experience, and endure obstacles. However, beyond my mere efforts that fail me is the ever-present power of God’s grace working in me. And, He promises to continue giving grace- in order that I can overcome my failures- until my life’s canvas is made complete, and I will be able to receive his eternal salvation.

Heavenly Father, I confess to You that, at times, I have been selfish. I ask for Your forgiveness. I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atonement for my sins. I thank You that because of Jesus, You bestow Your grace upon me. I ask and gratefully receive Your power that makes me capable to not make the same mistakes again. It is in YOUR name that I pray. Amen. 


“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”- Acts 20:24 (NLT)

It Takes a Village

The importance of community never meant as much to me as it did when I became a parent. Since then, countless times I’ve heard it said, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I wanted to know more about this proverbial village. Thus, I began my research.

Those who live in a village may be a part of a certain tribe. A tribe views the rest of the community as a “family circle”.

In a tribe, each individual is responsible to carry out special services- whether old or young. An appointed chief is given a right to govern. He is a leader, a protector, and one who serves his community. There may be a ‘council of elders’; those members who are older and wiser to give advice and good counsel. Other members may be warriors, farmers, advisors, etc. Within the family circle, every individual plays a role in raising up the children of the tribe.

Raising a child is no easy feat. I quickly learned that each member of my family circle does play a vital role in my child’s upbringing.

My husband, his daddy, is the chief. He is the leader and protector of our family, and one who serves our own tribe. Our ‘council of elders’ consists of our child’s grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles. Yes, they are older and wiser. They have raised a child (or more) and know how to give advice and good counsel. His cousins, the youngest of our family circle, carry out special services as well. They remind us all to desire knowledge with such eagerness and zeal.

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This sheds some light on the greatest family circle of all. The ‘body of Christ’. The church “village”, if you will. Could it be that this old proverbial saying coorelates with biblical principles?

Surely, it takes a village to raise up a child of God.

A child of God is not just someone who is young and innocent. A child of God is not just someone who is new in Christ.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12)

Therefore, I am a child of God. You are a child of God. And, it truly does take a village to raise up every member who is of the body of Christ.

Those who believe in Christ, that are baptized by the Spirit, and live in paths of righteousness are members of the church “tribe”: Jesus’ disciples.

  • The Chief of the church is, Christ, himself. He is the only One with authority to govern. He is our leader, our protector, and one who serves his tribe (disciples).
  • The ‘council of elders’ are those who are older and/or wiser. “To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.”- 1 Corinthians 12:8 (NLT)
  • Some may be [prayer] warriors. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:10, 11, 18 (NLT) 
  • Some may be farmers, or harvesters. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”- Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)
  • Some may be advisers. “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!”- Proverbs 15:22-23 (NLT)
  • Even the new in Christ offer special services. Just like a child who reminds us to seek knowledge with an eagerness and zeal. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”- Matthew 18:3-4 (NKJV)

Collectively, we are a community responsible for raising up each other. Indeed, we all have different roles. However, we are to abide by the laws of God and the truths in His Word. Then, we shall live together in peace and unity. Just as those who live in a village.


 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.– Ephesians 2:19-21 (NIV)

Faith Over Feelings

On any given day, I am bombarded with a slew of obstacles within the four walls of my home. Life’s demands come charging at me before the rising of the sun. And, they’re relentless until long after the first glimpse of the moon.

Many are the days when I wish I can conquer anything that comes my way! Give me a spatula in one hand and a Swiffer duster in the other. Then, one may see a meal that could appear on the cover of Rachael Ray and a house that’s featured on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.

But, seldom does this actually takes place. My mop has got better use wiping up my tears, instead of the grime on the floor. My dishes have got a better clean from ‘elbow grease’ fueled by frustrations. My dinners have not always been top-of-the-line quality. I have simply strived to get something, anything, together while my toddler has had a meltdown on the floor.

I can admit during these times, I do not feel like yielding love, keeping peace, or exhibiting kindness and gentleness toward my family. I do not always feel the experience of joy or goodness, and often struggle with patience and self-control when my daily demands seem too much to handle. I feel I relive many days over and over again, and my faithfulness to my duties seem to be in vain.

Nevertheless, I do have two choices. I can allow life’s demands to overwhelm me and make me feel less than the best. Or, I can allow them to empower me to overcome and have faith to receive the best each day brings.

My favorite quote from an admired author says it best. “Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings..”- Lysa TerKeurst from Unglued.

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I need to remind myself that these feelings are often a collection of lies embedded in my thoughts, as told by the enemy. If I feel less than the best, then, this indicates that my heart is not in alignment with the heart of God. Thus, my faith in Him has wavered.

It is by faith in God that He empowers me to conquer anything that comes my way (Romans 8:35-37). It is by faith that He gives me tools to overcome my feelings (Romans 12:21) to be sure my heart aligns with His heart. When I meditate on His truths, I am given power to fuel my faith over my feelings. 

Galatians 5:22-23- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:

  • love– Now that you have been purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22)
  • joy– Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
  • peace– Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1)
  • patience– being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, (Colossians 1:11)
  • kindness– Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) 
  • goodness– ..we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
  • faithfulness– Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all persecutions and trials you are enduring.
  • gentleness– Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility. gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
  • self-control– For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It reaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12)

I choose, this day, to surrender my feelings of ‘less than best’ to the Holy Spirit. I seek to live by faith, in order to receive God’s best through the fruit of the Spirit!


“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. “- 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)

My Vows

I recall, as a young child, making “pinky promises” with friends. I’d hook my pinky finger with theirs and we’d proclaim, “I pinky promise to             “. This was the most sacred of vows made to my dear friends. It’s funny how a simple childhood tradition became somewhat of a prerequisite to my future wedding vows.

“I, Rachael, take you, [Name], to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

These were the very words spoken under oath before God, our family, and our friends. But, after days, months, and years have gone by these words have become obsolete.

I’m not implying my marriage is bad and that I desire to leave. In fact, my husband and I have made a commitment to never speak of divorce- no matter how tough the going gets. However, when bad moments arise I will be the first to admit that those wedding promises are the very last thing on my mind.

When times get hard, I don’t meditate on being true, showing love, and honoring my husband. I can act like a nag, get a sarcastic tone, and vent to others. All of which are in direct opposition to that oath I made. And, those were the most sacred of vows I made to my dear friend.

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After I came to truly know Christ, I made a verbal proclamation of my life change and acceptance of salvation. I asked Christ for forgiveness of my sins. I acknowledged that He died to free me of those sins. I asked Him to enter my heart and my life. And, then, I vowed that I would trust and follow Him all the days of my life.

When moments have been tough, I have not always faithfully kept this vow. I have not always exhibited unwavering trust. I have not always followed what God’s Word promises me to get through ‘the bad’. Again, living in direct opposition to that most sacred of vows I made to my dear friend, Jesus.

“When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”- Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 (NLT)

Today is a new day, and I would like to start afresh. I thank God for bringing me revelation of my oppositional tendencies. My prayer is to be freed, by Christ, from the broken promises I’ve made to God, to my husband, and to anyone else. I invite the Holy Spirit’s supernatural presence to empower me to fulfill and keep my promises. From this day forward:

“I, Rachael, take you, Jesus, to be my Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Leader, and Friend. I promise to be true to you, and your beloved people, in good times and in bad. I know, my God, that you examine [my] heart and rejoice when you find integrity there (1 Chronicles 29:17). I choose to love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart, all [my] soul, all [my] mind, and all [my] strength (Mark 12:20). I want to honor You in whatever [I] do, so as I do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) for all the days of my life.”


Then I will sing praises to your name forever as I fulfill my vows each day.”- Psalm 61:8 (NLT)

Baggage

When I think back on my teenage years and young adult life, I recall a great deal of baggage. I had undergone multiple forms of abuse, starting at a young age. Over time, different life events added to the previous collection of hurts. Being bullied in school brought about low self-worth. Caving into peer pressures landed me into an alcohol-filled lifestyle that robbed me of precious memories, and even friends. Yearning to fit in lead me to commit acts of sexual impurity of my mind and body. Becoming a victim of anxiety overruled every decision in my life.

Having close friends or family offered a helping hand to carry my baggage. Sharing my troubles most definitely felt like some weight had been lifted. But, when I hung up the phone with that friend or when that relative walked out of my door, the baggage was left behind. And, I certainly picked it back up again.

I’ve only ever been on a plane for a single trip in my life. Upon arriving to the airport, I had to ‘check-in’ my baggage. There were restrictions in regards to size and weight for my baggage in order to be carried in cargo. Therefore, anything that surpassed this restriction was now my fee. Of course as a first-timer, I had no concept of “packing light”. So, the extra weight of my baggage was my responsibility.

As I recollect the weight of my internal baggage of troubles, I am made aware of its heaviness. And, with each new hardship came even more heaviness. I truly thought the added weight made me a stronger person. If I could handle what was thrown at me already, I could surely handle anything else that came my way! On the contrary, I was undeniably weak. I spent much of my public time in anger and my private time in tears.

I lived a dual life- which invokes much disapproval (Revelation 3:16-17). I spent many years avoiding church, but proclaiming to be godly. However, yet another confrontation with adversity brought me back to my roots with Christ. I prayed; hard. I began to search for Him. I accepted Him back in my life. And ultimately, I learned that HE wanted my baggage. [Seriously!]

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My friend, Jesus, offered me a helping hand with my baggage- and never asked me to “pack lightly”. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down… But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins…“- Isaiah 53:4-5 (NLT).

And unlike my earthly friends and family, He never gave it back. “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God…”- 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT).

He took the weight as His sole responsibility, and even paid the fee! “…He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”- 1 John 2:1-2 (NLT)

And, when I feel weak from new baggage, I will hand it over to Jesus and gain steadfast strength!  “…I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me... For when I am weak, then I am strong.”- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT). 

I praise, Jesus, for His sacrifice! I pray, you friends, will grab hold of these truths! And, I thank, Jesus, for [our] freedom-paid by his ransom!


And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”- Romans 8:2-3 (NLT)