I thought once I graduated high school and college that the endless, nagging search for my identity would end. Wow, was I wrong.
The first few years after college were miserable. I shifted from job to job, and my journey with God was drastically inconsistent. The stereotypical question of “who am I” loomed in the background of my life for five years.
What changed? I got married. Ah yes, this is who I am. I am a wife.
Once I married my husband, we both quickly became involved in our church, and my relationship with Jesus deepened and matured. Just as I began to feel comfortable in my identity as a wife, a church-goer, and now an editor by occupation, we started talking about starting a family. By God’s grace, we were able to get pregnant quickly.
Now I am a wife, and I am a mother. Awesome. I’ve made it.
After my first doctor’s appointment, 4 weeks after finding out that we were expecting, my identity was shattered. No heartbeat. Not only was I heartbroken, but I was frustrated and insecure. The one thing I thought would complete me was now gone.
This pain was abated when we conceived again two months later. That precious little baby lived inside of me for three months. After a traumatic night in the emergency room, we lost our second child, and my confidence was ripped away yet again. The heartbreak, frustration, and insecurity came back with vengeance; and after being inundated with newborn pictures on Instagram, extreme bitterness was thrown into the mix.
Will I ever be a mother? Am I just not good enough to be a mother? What does this say about who I am?
While I still had the amazing blessing of being a wife to my incredible husband, that wasn’t enough anymore. Sadness was to be expected after two losses, but the immense amount of insecurity I faced every day when I looked in the mirror was unbearable. Why? Because I had placed my self-worth in something other than Jesus. I was familiar with the whole idea of my “identity being found in Christ”, but it’s now clear that I never actually knew what that meant.
The biblical definition of identity is radically opposed to what we find in our western culture. In America, we are told that if we spend years digging deep inside of ourselves, while also racking up a list of achievements, we may finally become confident in ourselves. However, from a biblical worldview, identity is not achieved, it is not discovered in the midst of our fleeting emotions, it is given.
You don’t go out on a voyage to find yourself. You have been found by Someone Else, and that Someone Else gives you your identity. You are told that it is no longer you who lives, but Jesus who lives in you (Galatians 2:20).
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. - Colossians 3:2,4
All the ways our culture tells us to define ourselves, by our successes, our perfectly decorated homes, our well-traveled Instagram squares, and our flawless little families, it’s all rubbish when compared to the joy of knowing Jesus. These things are not bad, but we can’t expect to find security and confidence there, and they are no longer the primary goal of our lives. Becoming like Jesus is the goal. And when Jesus is the goal, insecurities melt away, jealousy fades, and selfish competition disappears. Life doesn’t get easier, but true Life is found.
I am now a mother of four children, two in heaven, one in my arms, and one on the way. By God’s grace, I continue to grow in my relationship with him, as well as my relationship with my husband. And yet, I am still tempted to find my security in things, in achievements, in titles. How do I know this? I can tell by the thoughts in my head when something doesn’t go my way, when jealousy sneaks in, or when my competitive nature tells me I need to do more or do better than the next guy. I wish I could say that I have permanently rested in my identity in Jesus, but it’s an ongoing battle.
I absolutely have to be reading God’s Word every single day to protect my mind and soul from buying the lie that I can find my true self if I strive hard enough. I can’t. My inner feelings and desires are often shifting, and as soon as I feel like I have “made it”, some new standard for defining my self-worth will come along, and the whole agonizing journey would begin all over again.
This is good news, my friend. We don’t have to keep searching for ourselves. When our identity is found in a relationship with Jesus, we could lose everything we hold dearly, and he will still be more than enough.
“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.” - C.S. Lewis
For another story like Caitlin’s, check out Hannah Lee’s White Chair Film.