A few weeks back a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook, “If someone asked you who you are and you couldn’t answer with what you do, could you answer?”
I thought about that question for a moment, started to type my reply, deleted my reply, started typing again and then deleted it and decided not to answer. I thought my answer sounded too cliché and more like “Christianese” than my true heart. So I just didn’t answer.
But the question has lingered with me all this time.
Who Am I?
Of course, my first instinct was to say, “I am Michelle.” But that’s not who I am, that’s my given name.
Who am I REALLY?
I could answer by telling you who I have always been.
Michelle, daughter of Lynn and KC. I have one sister I grew up with and four more siblings I didn’t meet until I was 26 (more on that another day). I grew up in a small town, that’s not so small anymore, and if I wasn’t at school, I was doing something with the Girl Scouts. I graduated in the top 5% of my class (which would have been higher had I not found drugs and alcohol my senior year of high school).
But is that who I am? Or is that where I came from? It’s definitely a part of my story, and while all of my childhood shaped the woman I am, I don’t think it answers the question of, “Who am I?”.
My adult life has been quite the adventure, and perhaps that’s the better answer?
I am a mother. My daughter was born when I was 18 while I was still a child myself. I have spent the last 18 years raising her, taking her to countless therapy and doctors’ appointments and I have sat in more IEP meetings than I can count. I have laughed. I have cried. I have worried. I have celebrated. I have been her comforter, friend, supporter, encourager, advocate and safety net. She is my Song of Joy and a lot of who I am today is because of the years I have spent as “Carie’s mom.”
But is that who I am? Or is that my current role in life? And if who I am is the role I currently have, then I am wife, mom, sister, friend, teacher, assistant, housekeeper (not to mention zookeeper) and the list could fill two blogs!
No, I don’t think that’s who I am.
So, what about how I see myself? Is THAT Who I am?
My view of myself has been greatly shaped by my perception of how others view me. And though my perception may be my reality, it doesn’t make it the truth. Our Pastor’s Wife recently spoke to the ladies in our church about seeds and soil. She taught that the seeds represent either the lies of the enemy or the truth of God while the soil is a picture of our heart. Whatever we plant and cultivate is what grows. I heard her speak on this twice and both times, God showed me lies that I believe about myself. But after our church’s women’s conference this year, I took some time and did “homework.” I took the next step of finding out what God says about the lies I have spent most of my life believing to be the truth. It should come as no surprise that the truth of God’s Word is the exact opposite of the lies I have been living by all these years.
So, am I awkward? Is that who I am? I relate the most to that word, though now that I’ve looked up the definition I don’t WANT to relate to it anymore.
Maybe I am the opposite of awkward. Maybe I really am graceful? But that description doesn’t fit me just now.
But what if I am defined not by my past, or my present, but by my failures?
What if all of my mistakes are who I really am? And if that is who I really am, then is that how others see me? Am I defined as the smart kid who dropped ranking in high school because of partying my senior year? Am I seen and judged as the unwed mother and single mom? What if I am the college drop out? Am I the weak one who couldn’t handle full-time ministry alongside a new marriage, troubled teen and depression due to my mother’s death? Am I the failure I so often see myself as? Does everyone else see me that way? Am I the sum total of all of my failures?
Strong. Maybe THAT’s the word I’ve been looking for.
Maybe I am strong because of everything I have overcome in my life. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, “you’re so strong!” I usually have to choke back a laugh because if they only knew the behind the scenes struggles that take place, they would NEVER use that word to describe me. But strength is really just an action. It describes the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual exertion used. It’s the outward expression of an inward decision, “I will do this no matter the cost or difficulty.”
My life experiences have shaped me, molded me, broken me, built me, defeated me and encouraged me. Each time a new event happens, it shapes me! But the shaping does not define WHO I am … it tells the story of WHERE I have been.
The answer finally came to me as I was washing the dishes before bedtime one night:
Who I am is wrapped up completely in whom I belong to!
When I belonged to myself, I made a lot of selfish decisions, and I wasn’t too happy with most of the outcomes. But when I surrendered my life and its purpose over to the one who created me, He took control and has had me on his potter’s wheel ever since.
“And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand” (Isaiah 64:8, NLT).
I feel that I have become and been remade so many times that there is no easy way to answer this question of identity UNLESS you allow me to tell you with whom I identify!
I am NOTHING apart from Christ! Without Jesus, I am nothing.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NLT).
Did you catch that? Apart from CHRIST, I can do NOTHING! Oh, I still try to do and be without Him sometimes, but that doesn’t usually go very well. My life is bound up in my Savior, and I cannot exist apart from Him.
Who I used to be and who I dreamed I would be doesn’t matter anymore! My life belongs to Him and therefore who I am is whomever he created me to be.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).
So, who did God create me to be? Well, that is, and always will be, a work in progress.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
I am continually being transformed into His likeness and the only way I know how to get there is to live every day courageous, taking small steps, putting one foot in front of the other, a single day at a time, walking in obedience to His Word, by His Spirit, into the calling He has for me.
So, who am I?
I am HIS!