Overcome the Lie: Identity

Quick note: Today I am joining up with Overcome the Lie for their second annual blog tour - talking about how Jesus overcame the lies about identity I have believed. If this is your first time on Journey Mercies, huge welcome! Feel free to poke around and read the page about the blog and the story of my own journey.

Overcome the Lie is an online community that exists to empower women to overcome lies in their lives through the power of Jesus. You can check them out on their website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest

How do you identify yourself? 

When someone asks you to describe yourself, what are the first three things you mention?

For me, it was: nurse, health educator, and expat/missionary. But in 2013, when some of those roles were stripped from me, it radically changed my self-image - for the better.

My husband and I have lived in Cambodia since March 2011, and from our first month here through the summer of 2012, I volunteered in a missionary clinic as a registered nurse. I helped set up the clinic, register patients, assisted in procedures, visited patients in their homes - working a full-time volunteer job that was meaningful and fulfilling. I also was finishing my bachelor’s degree in nursing online from a university in Kansas City. 

But in June 2012, the missionary doctor closed the doors of the clinic and went home for a year’s furlough. I continued studying full-time online and volunteering here and there with small projects, but my world of influence and work suddenly shrunk. And after I finished my online studies in December, I found myself a very reluctant housewife with a blank calendar and few commitments.

I’ve always been a “go-getter” - a woman with a lot of drive and ambition who finds new opportunities for herself. But last year, I was plunged into a depression I couldn’t shake. I tried finding part time work with my husband’s organization and developing health education programs for other charities in town. But there were no positions in my husband’s office, and the other charities were slow to respond. 

I felt incredibly frustrated, unfulfilled, and dissatisfied. Why would God put me in a country like Cambodia and not give me a specific role to play? Why were my talents and skills being wasted? Why couldn’t I find some way to use my nursing?

And slowly, over the course of a few months, God showed me why. He gently drew out the idols in my heart: finding my identity in my work. {To read some pretty raw blog posts from those days, click here and here}.

It was true. I’ve always found satisfaction, even pride, in describing myself as a nurse. I had good, even challenging, jobs that were respected by others. I had a role to look forward to when I woke up in the morning and a way to feel good about myself. But take that away? I felt worthless.

I believed the lie that I needed to create my own identity through my work, efforts, and titles. Jesus wasn’t enough for me. Being his daughter, his redeemed child, didn’t factor into my thoughts when I evaluated my own worth. I sought to be recognized and defined by my work - not by the work Christ did for me. 

God had to strip away all that was holding me together to show me how little I really saw myself as his child, and how much I wanted to define myself by what I did - a long and painful process. But now, reflecting back on the past year, I know why God allowed all those distractions and props to fall out of my life. He has redefined who I am. I’m not defined by what I do; I’m defined by what Jesus did for me, and even now, how he changes me and leads me. Who I am in Christ is far more significant and lasting than any identity I could build on my own. 

Feel free to download an 8x10 printable for your personal use here or by clicking on the image!

And what is our identity as followers of Jesus? We have to fill ourselves with the truth God has put in his Word to discover that.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new has come!" {2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV}

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." {Galatians 2:20, NIV}

"For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." {Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV}

And once we realize we are defined by Christ, old sins, habits, and personas no longer define us. Good or bad, they become insignificant. They become part of the tapestry of our lives, but not the whole picture. When we stand back to look at our lives, they are no longer the defining point. We see Jesus and who he created us to be. He takes those broken parts and weaves them into HIS story, redeeming them and giving them meaning. And that only happens when we let go of all else and cling to him alone. 

And once in Christ, our identity doesn’t change. It’s not threatened by other people. It can’t be held up in comparison to others, to either make us feel better about ourselves, or worse, because we can’t take credit for who we are. God is working in us and through us to make a new creature, with a new heart that longs to glorify Him.

Now, the doctor has returned, and clinic has reopened. I work part-time, and God has blessed us with our first pregnancy. And I’m still tempted to find my identity and self-worth in a place other than Jesus. I want my husband to think I’m the perfect wife (which he knows I’m not), and I want desperately to be a good mother to our unborn child. And even in writing online, I’m tempted to define the worth of my work by the number of comments, followers, and favorites I receive from others. As long as I’m in this broken body on earth, I won’t stop struggling with the temptation to look away from Christ. 

But he is faithful to forgive, to strengthen, and to redeem. And that’s what I want to identify with and be recognized by: his steadfast love for me. 

Have you ever struggled with finding your identity outside of Jesus? I'd love to hear your story, too!

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