The Identity Crisis of My Life

I think it’s time to say something. I’m going to keep it pretty short because I’m not ready to go long on it. Still processing it. Still trying to figure things out. One day maybe I’ll write on it with some length and depth but not until God has done a longer and deeper work in me.

I’ve been through the identity crisis of my adult life in the last year. No exaggeration. It has been one of the most excruciating things I have ever endured. After a lifetime of belonging – which, in itself, betrays a certain privilege – I tumbled into a season marked by the most alien sense of unbelonging. Some of it was imagined. Some of it was startlingly real. Some of it was temporary. Some of it painfully endures. I disappointed people I’d so wanted to please and I was disappointed by people I demanded to be heroic. In some very painful respects, I’d given the benefit of the doubt where I shouldn’t have and withheld it in a few places worthy of it.

Numbers of us who’d previously aligned and agreed – not on everything but on enough – were cracking and crumbling. Some people I thought I knew felt like strangers to me and I, to them. Each of us Christian, some of us would talk and talk and truly attempt to understand one another only to hang up or walk away exasperated, incapable of grasping the other’s view. New teams were forming and I felt like I was slipping on ice, scrambling to find the right one.  The one that would always be right on everything.

A fog had cleared that I couldn’t cloud back up.  I saw things I couldn’t unsee and, for a while, a dark cloud descended where that fog had been. I had the unshakable sense that, though it was dark, I was not to shut my eyes. That I’d see more in that dark place than I’d seen in years of sun-up.

Still navigating some of it. Still trying to keep my eyes open.

And mostly to things that need changing in myself. Ways I’ve been kidding myself. Ways I’ve been part of the problem instead of the solution. Ways I’ve been a coward. A people pleaser. A crowd pleaser. Ways I’ve been acceptably Christian in many circles maybe, but not Christlike. Make no mistake. There can be a wide gulf fixed between those two things.

My entire identity has been steeped in the church. In a people, not bricks and mortar. Started serving the church in 6th grade when I’d graduated out of VBS and began helping the grown ups. Church has been good to me, a harbor amid the stormy unstable home life of my upbringing. I have no horror stories about church. I’ve known love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace and growth in each congregation and never loved a church more than the one I’m presently part of. I can’t imagine life without church. I will serve it till I die.

But my identity is having to be reshaped in Christ alone. He alone cannot change. He alone remains unswayed. He alone is Savior. He alone can take the pressure of being adored. Everyone else we set up high is just another Humpty Dumpty waiting to fall.

I am sanguine to the bone. I love a group. I love my friends. I love my associates. I love familiarity. I love knowing what to expect and getting it. I love being able to fill in a sentence like this with confidence: I am a ____________________.

But the only label I know for certain I want to wear is this one: Jesus-follower. I want to go with Jesus. When pilgrimage gets to be a group fare, fabulous. Nothing is more fun to me. But when pilgrimage with Him requires more aloneness or more traversing with unfamiliar sojourners who make me feel awkward, that has to be just fine, too.

I want to do people good. I want to go to those margins where people need the gospel most. I want to love. Sacrifice. Wrestle. Change. I don’t just want to go where I feel like I belong. I just want to go where Jesus points.

Months into this ridiculous identity crisis, it turns out I didn’t lose as many friends or as much community as I feared. But what I lost was my naivety.

Good riddance I guess. Good but hard riddance.

I want to be brave for the sake of the gospel. Too much is at stake and too many people dying and suffering to take the cheap route. This was meant all along to cost us something.

Maybe fitting isn’t the point. The fact is, we don’t fit here. We fit someplace we’ve never been. Maybe the holes we feel in our lives aren’t all supposed to be filled. Let them sit there awhile and ache. Let them sit there awhile and speak. Maybe they’ve got something to say.

 

 

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431 Responses to “The Identity Crisis of My Life”

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Comments:

  1. 401

    I am just seeing this but am so grateful for the writing. Thank you, Beth, for helping me feel a little less alone!! May God continue to bless your work!!

  2. 402
    Amber Allison says:

    Beth, I feel like I am going through something similar. Not sure what I can about it but trust God in the promise that He will complete this work in me…

    Much love 🙂

  3. 403
    Julie Clark says:

    Beth, I want you to be greatly encouraged. It is difficult to have gone through all the journeys that you have and still there are journeys to follow and waiting on you. Being an alien in your own skin is an odd place to be. I know how that feels. It comes with so many uncomfortable things that don’t make sense but know that every moment of being uncomfortable is bringing you closer to understanding the lost. I think the Lord allows struggles so we can relate to people who struggle. It’s what I call a stink-a-roo. 🙂 Just know that I’m praying for you and have been for years. I appreciate you!

  4. 404
    Mary says:

    I’ would like the chance to speak, to tell my side of the story if you would like to listen..

  5. 405
    Elizabeth says:

    Hi, Beth,

    Our women’s Bible study group at Bethany Lutheran in Austin is doing your “To Live is Christ” study. God has moved powerfully in my life through your studies, and He is continuing to speak through you in asynchronous fashion right to my heart, answering very personal heart-to-heart prayers with Him miraculously week after week through a study you penned twenty years ago.

    I just came across this blog post, and was surprised to see how closely the experiences you were sharing matched up with the most recent season of my life. In fact, just today, as I went through your study, a question you posed showed me for the first time the way in which I have idolized the church (other Christians). I had just been talking over with God the fact that I didn’t want to do that any more, and that if someone asked me what I do (career), I wanted to respond with “Jesus follower”. Those were the words that seemed to ring truest. I read this post, and was surprised to see the Spirit speaking so similarly in your words.

    Please be encouraged. Know that God is using you. Stay faithful to the Lord, and His Word. Maybe this tip-of-the-iceberg glimpse into the work God has been accomplishing through your service in the life of a woman you have never met can serve to bring you joy.

    THANK YOU for following Him.

    Elizabeth

  6. 406
    Hannah says:

    I have a feeling you’ll never read this. But I had to tell you that I am turning 29 next month and I feel and have felt pretty much exactly all the words you just wrote/described. I have went to sleep listening to messages of yours on YouTube and woke and found this. Something the Lord has been teaching me as of late is this, that I will stand before him one day for how I reflected not only his holy name but also for how I handled others. I’ve been deserted by friends, and funny enough, I am doing my first ever bible study at my church and we are doing “Entrusted.” It has been a true help in my life. Thank you for being real and godly and a JESUS pleaser. I have been a people pleaser too and I’ve felt so rejected when they wouldn’t accept me, especially Christians… but I am confident in this- God is ENOUGH for us. Love you, even though ya don’t know me.

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