The quest for an identity is a struggle that all women experience no matter what season of life they may find themselves. Our guest contributor and Redeemed Girl Institute graduate, Caroline Brittingham shares how we can know who we are without the burden of labels. –Marian
For months I thought graduating from college was no big deal. I shrugged off the comments and questions of others concerning graduation because on the inside I didn’t want to face the facts. I didn’t want to say out loud, “Truly, I’m terrified.”
It’s true. I’m in the middle of an identity crisis, and I honestly struggle with how to deal with and confront it. I shoved the reality under the rug over and over again, refusing to deal with my feelings and all at once it is right here staring me in the face, just days away.
Maybe you are not graduating college like me, maybe you are, but have you ever felt this way before? Have you ever felt like the person you have always been, that identity you have always upheld, worked for, and lived is suddenly coming to an end?
After all, I have lived under the identity of student for as long as I can remember. Being a student has defined each year of my life into semesters and breaks and grades and all of the sudden it is just gone. What do I call myself now?
I think this is a question that we all ask ourselves more than we would like to admit. We identify ourselves by the roles we live out in our lives. Student. Daughter. Mother. Wife. Friend. Employee. Profession. You fill in the blank. We spend all of our lives finding our identities in the confines of these roles and we try to be more than one at once. We grasp onto them, and we try to find our life, worth, and purpose in them.
But, this is not how we were made to live. This is not how we were created to be. These roles that are involved in our lives were never meant to be the foundation of who we are because they are temporary. I think that is why I am freaking out so much internally about graduating college. For countless weeks, months, and years of my life I have found a huge portion of my identity in my role as a student.
Who am I? I’m a student, but I cannot say that anymore. Soon enough I will walk across that stage, shake the hand of my President, take a few pictures, toss my hat into the air, and that is it—I’m not a student.
Realizing this stripped me of feeling like I had purpose and left me feeling like a piece of me was gone. I started having a lot of anxiety, worry, and experienced a lot of stress, even sadness. Going to God felt cliché, doesn’t every college graduate feel this way? Maybe, but slowly and surely God kept showing and revealing to me that I had gotten this identity thing all wrong.
He showed me clearly that what I had built my identity on was not foundationally sound. He showed me tenderly that I found my identities in so many other places, that He was just one of the many. I clung to these roles in my life as if they were my life and when one of them was stripped from me, chaos abounded because my foundation began to wobble and feel unsteady and unsure.
I always knew and said that my identity was found in God, but when something came to rock my boat, the truth was revealed. He’s slowly begun to show me that my identity can only be found solely in Him. Each and every day I have to remind myself that I am a daughter of the King. I am chosen. I am accepted. I am free. I am His before I am anything, anything else.
Consider these words from Colossians 3:1–3, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set our minds on things above, not one earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden in Christ in God.”
Before I am a friend; I am His. Before I am a wife; I am His. Before I am a daughter; I am His daughter. Before I am a leader at church; I am His. I am His.
I always chuckle a little bit when I begin to grasp the truth of God, because I think how silly I am to ever think that I had it right. There is a reason He is Truth, and I need more and more of it. It is those, “OH, so that’s what God meant when He said…” moments as it began to click for me more and more. I began to bathe myself in the reminders of His Truth: I am His. That is who I am.
When I know who I am, what my identity is, and when it is found in Him I not only began to feel my shoulders relax and my worry brow begin to soften; I also began to view and live-out my roles with more freedom and less pressure to perform. I feel more alive and more able to love. When I feel my anxiety creeping in, because let’s be honest… I am still failing, learning, and growing in this, I can recognize that I need a foundation check. Who am I?
So, maybe you are graduating or moving onto a different phase of life like me. Maybe certain events or tragedies have happened in your life that have caused roles to be taken or given to you in ways you did not expect. Maybe you are just overwhelmed trying to hang on and live in and out of all of your ‘identities’. Wherever you are, stop. Take a deep breath. Take a moment and remember that roles will never satisfy or last, so building a life on them is like building life on a seesaw.
Solid foundation. Unchanging and Truth. Jesus, my God. Let yourself be hidden in Him and built on Him alone. Who are you? His. And that, will never change.
“How great is the love the Father lavished on us, what we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a–b