A quick pass by the Target book section pretty much sums up what’s on everyone’s minds – ourselves. Books about
washing our face becoming amazing, loving who we are, discovering our greatness and living awesome, are on the top shelves for a reason. So much time and effort are being put into the discovery of our identities. But what does that actually mean? If we are using outside resources to discover our identity, isn’t that still kind of like other people telling us who we are? So, who do we listen to? Which book is going to tell us who we really are? Which path to self-discovery is the right one? It’s all so confusing…and furthermore, what if I don’t want to wash my face? Stop screaming at me about it.
There is a lot of talk about identity around this western part of the world, but it seems that among expats and mission workers (especially women) it’s even more prevalent. It’s hard to give up so much of who we thought we were in our home culture when moving overseas. It’s especially hard when you watch yourself turn into someone who you don’t really recognize anymore…and 99% of the time, someone that you
and others don’t even like. Confusion about identity becomes a significant tool in satan’s toolbox by keeping us focused on and confused about this idea of self. But it costs us more than we think. When we start slipping and staggering on what used to be our foundation of truth and look inward (or all around us) rather than to HIM, it robs us more than we might think.
Moving overseas and to our little town in Tanzania slowly began eating away at “me.” First, we were living in a town where we knew a total of zero people. There was no one around to either affirm or reject me, no one who cared about my success or failure, no one who saw me at Target or commented on my clothes. There was no one calling me for lunch dates, speaking my language, laughing at my jokes, enjoying my children, or constantly reaching out to book photography appointments. In fact, my photography website expired a couple of weeks after our arrival in Tanzania. Aaron, for obvious reasons, first and foremost being that my business was closed due to a move to Africa, wouldn’t let me renew my website. So, I lost my already borderline crumbling mind. I cried a huge toddler-esque cry. Up until this point, I didn’t even know that I cared about my website, but there was a part of me who believed that what I did as a photographer was “who I was.” That “part of me” died with my website. That’s so embarrassing to admit. This kind of thing happened over and over again that first year. I’m not even going to mention how hard it was to switch Lucky skinny jeans over to flowing stick-to-my-sweaty-thighs missionary skirts. Not being able to dress how I liked was even starting to rob me of my identity. I definitely looked in the mirror, delicately touching my reflection, tenderly whispering with a slight head tilt “Who am I?”
every day for an entire year on more than one occasion.
It turns out that my identity was a lot more complicated and full of idolatry than I had realized. My identity most certainly was not as rooted in Christ as I had thought before the big revealing move overseas.
Unfortunately, this didn’t lead to immediate repentance nor did I instantly realize what was happening to me. But one by one, as more and more of who I believed that I was fell to the ground, my confidence, my peace, my happiness and my sense of “me” fell with it. I was a mess.
Losing myself drove me to Jesus. It gave me truth. It gave me peace despite circumstances and feelings; despite me.
Thank God that no one handed me a book on self-love or self-confidence back then.
The thing about these self-esteem books is that they are often offering us faux, fading and fraudulent reproductions of what Christ alone can provide.
The Bible actually calls us to die to ourselves and in doing this promises that we are found in Christ. Can you imagine a book called Die To Yourself making NY Times best seller list? It’s such a detestable thought in our self-obsessed culture.
I recently read book reviews from Christians defending the books Girl, Go Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. They were defending the author, who claims to be a Christian, stating that she wasn’t writing a “Christian book but a self-help book.” But she, a professing believer, wrote a book about self-confidence and self-acceptance and didn’t mention the gospel. If this woman is a true follower of Christ and wrote an entire self-help book, geared towards women, without mentioning the beauty of being found in HIM, then she is either cruel or confused. If she has tasted the goodness of Jesus and gave us instead a message of self-love, then there is no defense.
As Nancy Pearcey wrote in her incredible book Finding Truth, “Christianity is a worldview conceptually rich enough to account for all of human experience.” Thank you, Nancy. Read her books! Beware of Christian authors who are offering you borrowed and dishonest worldviews. This is not about being legalistic or narrow-minded rather about filling our minds with the most freeing truth there is and ever will be. Don’t let anyone sell us short of who God says that we are, sisters. Stop believing it. Stop serving each other with this noise. It’s not offering hope. It is offering fraudulent self-identity that will never satisfy.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, author Rachel Hollis claims, “Who you are is defined by the next decision you make, not the last one.” NO! This is a lie. This is a condemning lie. As Christians, we know that this has nothing to do with our identity. Can you imagine people reading this and believing it? Can you imagine how terrifying this would be to believe that we are defined by our next decision? It is repulsive to be a Christian author and tell women, who are searching for truth and acceptance, that they are defined by their next decision. What if just today I made a horrible next decision and bought press-on nails at Target
that’s hypothetical because I would never do something so embarrassing?
Seriously, no wonder everyone is walking around confused. Do you see what is happening? This author just made huge claims about our identity and how it is found. We didn’t discover it for ourselves, and we most certainly didn’t discover it from God’s truth. There is no solid ground on which she stands. We were told, by some random lady who decided to write a book, what defines us…and sadly many of us believed it.
If you are a Christian, then the best news in the world is that we are already found. Our search is over (read that in a scream). So rather than looking into the mirror asking “Who am I?” we get the freedom of looking away and being confident in WHO HE IS. That is enough. This identity in Christ is rooted and grounded in timeless and culture-defying truth and not contingent upon performance, decisions, confidence, other’s opinions, or anything else thrown at us.
We don’t need women’s conferences and books telling us that we are enough and amazing and worthy. We need to be reminded of the glorious gospel message that relieves us from the bondage of self-obsession and points us to joy and rest and beauty and hope and love that we find in Jesus.
We don’t need to strive to be better versions of ourselves because Christ’s love already bought us, and we are made perfect in HIM…and that exact same grace and power that paid for our sins on the cross, and defeated death, brings us the strength to become more like HIM every day.
This means that:
We can be weak and weary (and weird) and be perfectly ok because His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
We don’t have to perform. We are offered rest. (Matthew 11:28)
We don’t have to relentlessly search for identity. We are already found. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
We don’t need to muster up more confidence. We need more reliance. (Psalm 52:6-12)
We don’t need to obsess about perfecting ourselves and other created things. We have our Creator to worship. (Psalm 96:4-5)
We can stop thirsting for more of what the world offers, still feeling like something is missing. We are offered living water and will never thirst again. (John 7:37-39)
We discover who we are when we learn WHO HE IS. (Galatians 3:27-28)
Rachel Hollis didn’t offer a self-help book with a semi-Christian influence; she offered women a counterfeit confidence that enslaves, when Christ came to set us free.
Sisters, stop looking around to others. Stop looking inward. Look up.
Don’t ever stop the pursuit towards HIM. Wherever we find ourselves in this world, from Africa to Asia, whether we are single or married, whether we are moms to little ones or bigs or to none, whether we are in a productive period of life or feeling weak and floundering, whether we are young or
still young but maybe aging a bit, sheesh, whether we are at our lowest or highest weight, or wading through our favorite or most challenging season, we are HIS and HE IS GOOD. And there is our identity. IN HIM.
Grace and peace,