I was a good girl. Like, really good.
I followed the rules on the playground. I obeyed directions in my textbooks. I was on time for work. I (generally) listened to my parents. I actually read my syllabi in college. (My professors loved me.) I was honest, diligent, and a hard worker.
I figured out very early on that people tended to like you more, respect you more, and admire you more, when you worked hard to be good.
I also found out that “good” was rarely ever good enough.
This ideology bled over into my understanding of my relationship with God…and, let’s be honest, if you read the majority of the Bible without the lens of grace introduced by Christ, it’s easy to think that behavior and performance and rule-following are what matter. (Spoiler: they’re not.)
But eventually, all my good works reached what I felt was the zenith — I got married (by carefully following all the relationship rules that the churches I was part of espoused), and we set out to be poor, selfless, and world-saving missionaries.
How much “good-er” do ya get?
Among conservative, western Christianity, this is the realm of the spiritual elite.
And I believed it all.
Then, it all blew up.
I would love to tell you the story.
In fact, I tried to begin. I have a whole story saved in my drafts, full of all the gnawing, painful details. I was shocked at my own response to the words on the screen. I started crying. Three years, and I still can’t write it.
The wounds are no longer raw, but run incredibly deep.
The tears are still too close to the surface, and the emotions are still too unstable. Time has not finished enough of her healing work, yet.
But it’s coming.
What I can tell you is that God took a match, lit on fire my understanding of his will, his ways, and ultimately himself, and burned it the ground.
Then, he turned to me with tears in his eyes, and a smile on face, and said, “Okay, love. Let’s start again.”
How does identity matter in all of this? What difference does it make?
By recognizing (a) that my identity is still in Jesus; (b) that none of the changes changed him, only what I understood about him; and (c) that my worth is found in the fact that I’m his creation, not in my performance or position; I have found the permission and freedom to be who he made me to be in the first place.
And who is that? An individual, unique believer who has been called to love the people in the world, not save them. A woman called to love him, not “do things for” him. A writer called to worship him, not wipe out the unbelief of the world with words.
This is how identity in Christ is redeeming me, even after my world blew up.