A Cleaner, Teacher, Wife, and Mother: Finding My Identity in Christ

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With so much at stake these days I see more and more commercials that have to deal with protection from identity theft.  I have experienced identity theft more than once and much more was at stake than my social security number and bank account.  And the major problem was that the person stealing my identity was me.

A few years ago I cleaned houses with my best friend.  While we scrubbed down other people’s bathrooms and took out their trash, we often talked about what we really want to do with our lives.  I mean, we were college graduates with big fancy degrees and we were cleaning houses for a living.  I did not really mind cleaning houses, but I did tend to have a problem when people asked me the “all so regularly” asked and dreaded question…. “So, what do you do?”  What do I do?  Well, I clean houses.  But I always wanted to follow that answer with… “But I have a degree, and I would like to change the world, and I think I am going back to school, and don’t judge me because my job is a house cleaner.”  What was the problem here?  The problem was that I was using a false identity.  I was placing my identity in what I did for a living and not in something far more valuable.

Many life-changing conversations took place sweeping floors and dusting windows.  It was inevitable with such a friend.  One conversation came as a challenge.  My friend asked, “Are we placing our identity in what the world claims as important, or are we placing our identity in what God says is important?”  What a pertinent question for such a time.  Indeed, I longed to answer the, “What do you do?” question with an answer that would satisfy the world.  “Well, I am a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher.”  I felt that in a way I lacked an identity, because I did not have a career.

Moving forward a bit, I find myself being a high school Bible teacher.  When I was first given this job I stole my own identity again.  I thought to myself, “This is great, not only am I a teacher, but I am also using my degree.  This is amazing!”  Now the job itself is good, but finally having an answer to the “question” was even better, or so I thought.  Months went by, I happily was able to have an identity, and life was great.  Wrong again!  A false identity only works for a very short amount of time.  I began to wonder why I was not satisfied with this new identity, and then I realized that I was again using an identity that was not my own.  This identity belonged to the world.

So, again, what was the problem with these two life stages?  First, as a house cleaner, I felt that I had little or no identity, or at least not a good enough one.  Then, as a teacher, I felt I had an identity, but remained unsatisfied.  What you have probably guessed by now is that I was placing my identity in what the world says is important, a good career to make your mamma proud.  How sad that I so easily gave away my true identity in Christ, for something far less valuable, a job.  I have a feeling that I am not alone in this challenge.  It almost seems inevitable that we will fall into this way of thinking.  From the time you are a child being asked “what do you what to be when you grow up?” to being a college student trying to pick a degree that will give you the perfect career, job status is constantly being placed over your relational status with Christ.  I do not want to be misunderstood as saying that having a job/career is of no value, for indeed it is.  Providing for your family is of utmost importance.  But you should always identify yourself first with Christ.

A perfect example is found in John 1: 19- 27:

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  And they asked him, “What then?  Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”  So they said to him, “Who are you?  We need to give an answer to those who sent us.  What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, or the Prophet?”  John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even “he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

John appeared to have no confusion with his identity.  I wonder if many of us would have been tempted to claim that we were Elijah, or the Prophet, putting on a false identity, one that would give us status.  Yet John, identifying himself so closely with Christ, claimed that he was not even worthy to untie his sandals.  This is a perfect example of someone doing the “job” he was called to do; he never lost sight that first and foremost, he belonged to Christ.

There is a lesson to be learned here from which no one is exempt.  Whether you are a wife, a father, a pastor, or a missionary – as noble as these tasks may be – you must not identify with your position, but with a person, Jesus Christ.

As I prepare to transition into the new stage of life of being a mother, it is my prayer that I do not find my identity in my child, or feel that I lack an identity because I “stay at home.”  It is my prayer that I will identify with Christ, understanding to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21) being created in Him for good works (Eph 2:10).

And I pray you will do the same.

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