(Note: Most of this was written in early summer, back around the time of my graduation, but I never published it.)
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my identity. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a true identity crisis. Because I’m rooted in my faith, “follower of Jesus” is my biggest identifier and something I can cling to even when I have no idea what or who else I am. I hope that’s the way other people see me, too.
For most of my life, I’ve been an adventurer-an explorer. I have always been a reader. I’ve been a cook and a baker. I’ve been an ice cream scooper and a barista. A student. A daughter. A friend. A nerd. An artist. A wanderer. I was a film buff. A coffee drinker. I tried my hand at being a hipster. Then I was hip for awhile. I even took a brief foray into being a hippy. Sometimes I think I’m becoming more of a hippy every day without even trying.
These are all identifiers. Jobs I’ve had, ways I see myself, ways other people see me…
I’ve been a student since I was 5 years old, when I entered 1st grade. Over the past 16-17 years, I’ve gone back to school every single autumn, and rejoiced every May.
For the past 4 years, I’ve had another identifier: English Major.
Since May 7, I’m no longer an English Major.
THAT IS CRAZY.
And it scares me.
For a long time, that’s been my go-to identifier. I use “I’m an English major” as an excuse, at times.
As an English major, people assume I will correct their grammar errors. (I won’t. On the inside? Yes. On the outside, no. Rest easy.) Another fun part of being an English major is everyone automatically assuming I’m going to be a teacher.
I tell them, no, I want to write. I want to publish novels. And they give me what I call the “English-major-pity-smile.” Most of you have probably given me that smile at one time or another, but that’s okay. To me, it became a joke. Every time I explained my desire to be a writer, I was being serious. I know it’s a big dream, but after four years, I’m still serious. After four years, I still believe we’re called to big dreams!
In Mere Christianity, my man C.S. Lewis wrote one of my all time favorite passages. It begins,
“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”
When I give up all the terms and identifiers to Him, I have the freedom to pursue Him fully. When I stop pursuing other things and focus on Him, the rest of my life seems to fall into place. If I stop worrying about how other people see me, or whether I am successful in the world’s eyes, I can shift my focus to Him.
A few months ago, I was meeting with a couple friends at Panera Bread, and someone asked the question, “How do you think God sees you?” That’s a hard question to answer at a moment’s notice, but it is also the identifier I care about most.
He loves me. He loved me before I loved Him.
He sees the good things about me. He sees that I am merciful. He sees that I am discerning. He sees that I am good at teaching and leading. He sees that I am a communicator. He sees that I work hard to maintain my relationships.
He loves me, not because of what I’m becoming, but because of who I am.
Even if you try to hide things from God, He knows. To me, that gives me license to be completely open and authentic with Him! He sees that I sometimes don’t allow myself to be real because I am afraid of being hurt. He sees that sometimes I tell people I’m so busy, but I’m really wasting valuable time. He sees that I sometimes go past boundaries I’ve set for myself.
And He loves me.
Because I know I’m loved by Him, I don’t have to become depressed over not being a student anymore. Because I have a beautiful community surrounding me, where I am given opportunities to use the gifts God’s given me… losing a part of my identity isn’t so bad. I don’t have to be afraid about the future, about stepping out into the real world, like so many of my classmates are.
I may not be a student or an English Major anymore, but I am still loved by God. That’s a constant, no matter what else I choose to be… no matter what other labels people give to me. Moving on from college after just four years is a reason to be joyful, because I’m moving toward something.
C.S. Lewis goes on to say,
“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day, and death of your whole body. In the end, submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
I admit that passage is confusing. It’s paradoxical. It doesn’t make sense. Looking for someone else shouldn’t bring you to the center of yourself.
But hey, Jesus doesn’t always make sense. It doesn’t make sense that we have more freedom when we submit to Him. It doesn’t make sense that I find myself when I seek Him with everything in me. Grace doesn’t make sense. Self-sacrifice doesn’t make sense.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ, for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
There is no place I want to find my identity other than the heart of Jesus.
Thanks for reading,