Early in our cross-cultural work, a question was posed in a teaching that both intrigued and challenged me. We had been in our place of service for a couple years and had our feet underneath us, feeling we could do this long term.
Then the question came.
Are you willing to be the kind of trusted friend of God who will faithfully obey and give yourself away but be willing to wait until eternity to see the full fruit of your labor?
That’s a big ask, requiring a deep trust in God’s sovereignty and His big picture plan.
But it was also a deep dare to me, a person who so often sunk my identity in what I could contribute and measured my value in what I could achieve.
The question stirred up a recurring theme in my walk, asking me to lay aside trust in my own ability to make things happen and surrender the results of my service to God.
Learning the true source of my value – rooted in my belovedness in Christ, not in my acts of service – was already a long and winding path with multiple sidebars with God. Here was an invitation to take another step.
God invites us to sink our identity in Him.
Our understanding of identity is closely knit together with our sense of value and worth. So, if your service is the foundation of your identity when your service ends, your very being is threatened.
At the end of a day, end of a season, end of a term of service… there’s no DONE in serving. If our identity and sense of value are intertwined with our to-do list, we will drown in a pit of do-do.
I suspect this pitfall is rooted in a misunderstanding of the heart of God for us. Instead of seeing Him as a kind and generous Father, we imagine Him being a demanding foreman with a clipboard of assignments.
God will go to great lengths to reshape our warped images of Him. Because we are created in God’s image, until we view Him accurately, we are not able to view ourselves accurately.
If you are wondering if you’ve fallen into the trap of defining yourself by what you do rather than in who you belong to, the following are the telltale signs.
Signs your identity might be misplaced:
- Poor boundaries and lack of margin
- Drivenness that leads to exhaustion
- Martha thinking – I have to do it all. No one else cares. (Luke 10)
- Excessively productivity-driven schedules
- Relentless longing for approval from others
- Over concern about image
- Inability to rest or celebrate when a project concludes
- A sense of over-responsibility
- Sparse spiritual vitality
If any of these are true of you, you can rest in knowing God is committed to reforming your thinking and reshaping your capacity to experience His love and kindness.
Recovery looks like:
- A deepening dependence and trust in God
- A growing awareness of your work being empowered by the Spirit
- Peace flowing out of honoring your limits
- Ability to experience soul rest as well as physical rest
- Increased humility rooted in being willing to be known as you truly are
- Exchange of your weakness for His strength
- A growing conviction you are completely and fully loved by God
- Joyful surrender and willingness to let God use your life in whatever way He chooses – even if the results of your obedient service are unseen and unapplauded in this life.
Don’t worry if you aren’t fully there yet – me neither. Transformation is a slow work because it’s a deep work.
What symptoms of misplaced identity have you experienced? How has God convinced you of your worth and value?
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