Identity

Have you ever been in a situation that led you to ask yourself, “How did I get here?”

I have.

I asked myself that very question as I sat sobbing on the side of a mountain in Spain while walking along the French Route of El Camino de Santiago. I wasn’t physically hurt or injured. I wasn’t even in danger. I was just overcome with emotion as I lay my heart bare before the Lord and finally confronted what I had tried so hard to avoid. Too ashamed to say these words out loud, I wrote them in my journal instead:

June 3, 2017

Today’s day of silence was good but hard because I had to reflect on things I don’t like to reflect on – like my dad. A lot of my insecurities stem from him. Even though it isn’t true, I feel that no one will want me because of my broken family and my resulting insecurity because of this reality. I feel that I deserve to be with someone as messed up as me. I fear no one will truly know me and truly love me. I really need to work on this. Honestly, it’s hard to even admit it, but that’s all I thought about during my walk today. Lord, help me to believe that I don’t need to make myself more attractive to be loved because you already love me as I am.

My parents are separated because of my father's alcoholism. I didn't realize the extent to which I let my broken family define me until that day. While there were many other components to my identity – such as being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, and an athlete – I found that my core identity was that of a girl who did not believe herself worthy of love; and so she tirelessly strove for it in being a good daughter, sister, friend, student, and athlete. Her motivating factor was not freedom or joy. It was fear and shame.

How you view yourself shapes your values, your actions, and your perspective. This can be inhibiting or empowering. Without even realizing it, I was inhibiting my own personal and spiritual growth because I had an incorrect view of myself and of God. It wasn't until I uncovered the lies that I found the truth about who I am and who God is.

I believed that I was unworthy of love and that I had to work for it.

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

I believed that God didn't want what was best for me. If He did, my father wouldn't be an alcoholic and my family would be united.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

As I began reworking my identity in light of Scripture, I realized that God's original intention for humanity was to live in harmonious relationship with Him forever in the Garden of Eden. But because God wanted a relationship, He gave humanity free will, knowing full-well that they could choose to obey His commands or disobey them; to accept His grace or reject it; to believe the Truth (that is, Him) or to believe in lies (anything not from Him).

The Fall – Genesis 3:1-4

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’"

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

For the first time in my life, I properly understood the power of deceit to destroy relationships. The serpent so cleverly created doubt in Eve's mind about her identity. He tempted her to believe that she wasn't enough as she already was; that she was an incomplete being who needed something more. He led her to forget that she was already made in the image of God and therefore lacked for nothing. 

He also caused her to question God's character. What did God really say? Can you trust His words? Are you sure He's telling the truth? 

The story of Adam and Eve sounded a little too familiar. Not because I had heard the story before, but because it echoed my own. Did God really say, "My grace is sufficient for you..."? (2 Cor12:9) Did God really say that I am His "handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which [He] prepared in advance for [me] to do"? (Eph 2:10)

How you view yourself shapes your values, your actions, and your perspective. This can be inhibiting or empowering. Without even realizing it, I was inhibiting my own personal and spiritual growth because I had an incorrect view of myself and of God. It wasn't until I uncovered the lies that I found the truth about who I am and who God is.

I've often wondered why it took my going to Spain to understand this basic concept. I do believe that part of my coming to this realization is the environment of Spain. The slower pace of life gave me both the time and the space to not only address the issues of my heart but to also listen for God’s voice – one that had become ever clearer as the business and the noise slowed to a quiet calm in the background. One that I grew to know even better the following semester while studying abroad in Seville. I took advantage of siesta time – that 3-hour window in the middle of the day when shops shut down – to read my Bible, pray, and journal. Yes, it’s true that I’ve grown to love the language, the culture, and the people. But what makes Spain so special to me is that it’s the place where I began the process of properly understanding who I am and who God is.