Identity: Not What But Who

I was feeling antsy, jittery, off. I had obligations (helping with the Two Hearts Coffeehouse) and figured I’d do what I had committed to instead of go to St. Bonaventure’s “Amazed & Afraid” program as it was something I just wanted to do.  I have a bear of a time discerning why I’m “off” — and where God wants me to be.

I arrived at the Coffeehouse and made it about 20 minutes before I wasn’t any calmer and needed to leave. My sister Bridgette is so great and she just said to go. I would say I felt bad abandoning her but I felt so in the wrong place I actually didn’t. I high-tailed it to St. Bonaventure and made it in time for the program.

Now at the Coffeehouse someone mentioned that they would be in a new role as a 7th grade CCD teacher this year and the main message is “Identity”. What an auspicious statement come hearing the night’s message at “Amazed & Afraid”.

Dave VanVickle spoke about being sons and daughters of God. That is our main, and true, identity. This is a wonderful message I have heard many times. It is such a key to life! Because I know that I am God’s adopted daughter first and foremost I am set in life no matter what – this identity can never be taken away from me and is is my primary identity.

As we got closer to Adoration Dave said, “Strip away all of your identities. The ones you think are important are not important. Your one true identity is that as a son or daughter of God”. The “strip away your other identities” stuck with me and was the guide for my “dialogue” with God during Adoration.

It was during this time at Church and notably during Adoration that I actually discovered I was no longer antsy, jittery, or off.  My heart warms during Adoration and my chest was so warm and at peace. God is great! I was where God wanted me to be.

Now while I know that I am God’s daughter I do also struggle with identity — “What am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do?” has been a constant prayer for years. I ask God for clarity there and I rarely ever feel like I know the answer.

As I was praying I thought about “If I actually do strip away all my other identities what would I then build back up on top of my identity as God’s daughter?” I know that there are things that I am and things that I do and some are unchangeable, some completely changeable, and some that will be hard to change but I know I should.

It was a relief to think about being in control of building up my identity and only keeping those things I really want to + should keep.

  1. God’s Daughter
  2. Nora’s Mother
  3. Ryan’s Wife

Those are non-negotiable. Those are unchangeable. Those are the core of my being.

So what is that has had me antsy, jittery, off? Ah, my yet-to-be-realized hopes and desires and – to be completely honest with myself – a large number of fears. Oh, and also some unclarity about what I should be doing my life! (Like: I have a full time job and it is pretty good, but is it what I’m supposed to be doing??)

And then He hit me with it. After years of me stubbornly just saying: “Tell me what I’m supposed to be and do!” He let me know I never asked one very important question. What should have been THE question all along. I finally heard the whisper in my heart:“The question isn’t ‘what’. It’s ‘who’.”

I sat there embarrassed. In all this time I embarrassingly have never asked God: “Who am I supposed to be?”. It is not about the “what” – it is all about the “who“.

“I am 100% God’s daughter. And I am a wife and a mother. If I were to make a pie chart of what else fits into this circle of God’s daughter what else goes in there defining my identity?” I am an employee/a worker – so that would need to get a piece. And I need a piece for “me”  – which just represents the stuff I like to do, things that make me happy which are separate from my wife+mother+worker-part. How much of the remaining slice would get assigned to “fear” — I don’t want it there, but if I am pretty sure it has a huge impact on my identity… (But wait this is me defining my WHO! Get out of there fear!) But back to that “worker” slice… I struggle with this so much – does it need to be a piece or how small can I make it? …And then I realized that is why I wanted to define my identity as a pie-chart. It gives it a compartment — I can think of it as a very small slice if I want to, even if it takes up 40 hours of my week how about I assign it a teeny tiny slice size?

But obviously life is not a pie-chart. It isn’t going to work if you think each slice of you is a distinct thing. You are you – that’s your identity! I am 100% God’s daughter. 100% a wife. 100% a mother. Any other elements that make up my WHO I get to decide what I put in there? What a calming thought. 

I was thinking about all this and thinking about wanting time away from work to figure out if I’m supposed to just be a stay-at-home mom and be with Nora. And then I had the counter-thought. I realized I would never want time away from Nora to figure out if I should define myself more as a full-time worker! I cannot, and do not want to, strip away my identity as “mother”, but I could readily lose the one labeled “worker” …Some great clarity given in a moment all because of asking “Who” and not “What”!

Now this isn’t to say I turned around a quit my job the next day. But it definitely has helped me stop feeling antsy and jittery about certain things for the moment. I am grateful and hopeful for progress in knowing what my identity is supposed to be because I get to pursue a new approach in prayer. Forgetting the “what” and instead focusing on the “who”. :: “Who am I supposed to be?” 

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