A little while ago, I was watching a program about soldiers coming back home from the battlefield and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them spoke of how nearly impossible it was to them to just switch gears from being on high alert 24 hours a day... to just being good ole' dad playing legos with the boys. How when they were soldiers, they knew who they were and what was expected of them. Back in the US, they felt out of place. Different, yet the same. Feeling like strangers in their own homes and families.
And I cried. Because, I got it. I got that whole "who am I now?" question. Since coming back to the US, I've been haggling with that question. Who I was had been summed up in "missionary"-- and now that we are in a somewhat in-between state, what is my answer?
I suppose, looking at things from where I am now, I can see that perhaps I set myself up for this identity question. Throughout most of my life, my identities were chosen for me: Daughter. Homeschooled. Christian family. #3 of 10 children. Even the course I studied was, in large part, not what I wanted to study but what I was directed to study. Where I worked was, at the beginning, chosen for me.
Of course, as I grew older--I chose how I would behave. I chose my character inside of those identities... but, again: they were chosen for me.
Then, I chose my identity: I chose to marry Rey. Within about a month, I married my man, became pregnant with Noah and moved to Mexico. If you weren't counting: that was 3 new "identities" in one month. Wife, momma and American-living-abroad.
These being some of the first decisions I'd made on my own, I wanted to excel. I wanted to be the best wife, momma and foreigner there'd ever been. But, I wasn't. Being a wife involved a lot more growing than I'd anticipated. I was sick during most of Noah's pregnancy and then struggled in knowing how to raise him. I constantly mis-interpreted cultural signals and became weary with it all. I found myself often just putting one foot in front of the other--feeling as though I was failing on all fronts.
But, at least. At least I was a missionary, which in itself is an identity. People knew what a missionary was (or at least their understanding) and supported us in amazing and tear-jerking ways. At least on those days I didn't get supper made for Rey because Noah had had a bad day and the annoying neighbors had been over--I was still a missionary.
And then. Then we came back to the States. Yes, our heart is still to return to missions--but we don't know exactly how or when that will be. Yes, I am still a mom--but now I am a mom in the US, which I've never done, and am trying to keep up. Yes, I am still a wife--but, for a while there, I was a working wife. And, now a wife to a foreigner (as opposed to being the foreigner).
Around the time that I saw that program about the returning soldiers, we were experiencing a lot of conflict and stress in our home. My work schedule was colliding with Rey's, and we were constantly passing responsibilities back and forth between each other as we tried to keep things going. I had actually been coming to find a new sense of identity in my job as I was beginning training to be a manager and was frustrated with trying to keep up with that and home.
There is a saying that I am not going to remember correctly--but it has to do with the fact that without conflict, there is no change. That we have to learn to view conflict as a good thing, because without it... we stop growing. So, during this high-pressure time--I felt God's voice saying that same thing to me. That this pressure was coming from a deeper area in me, an issue I had not ever really settled. That I shouldn't get caught up in the personal aspect of this conflict, but dig deeper and take the time to ask some questions. And wait for God's answer.
And I heard this verse: "Your life is hidden in Christ." (Col. 3:3) And, my eyes began to be opened. Ok, folks. Don't be rolling your eyes about the fact that this "identity in Christ" message is one taught in Bible class 101... cuz I am just really getting it. So, bear with me.
You see. I felt like I was this person who needed to be somewhat like a chameleon. The same, but drastically different. Somehow being always culturally relevant and in style while balancing that with pouring myself into the lives of my kids and balancing that with being a romantic wife while balancing that with being a servant to this world that needs Jesus. So, it was like me manually trying to change these gears in my mind--without making any waves.
But, what God is teaching me is this: My identity is Jesus. What that means to me is this: I am successful only when I am doing all I do to please God. When I am moving in obedience to Him and allowing Him to cover me and take care of the rest.
What that translates into in daily living is FREEDOM. Shall I go on? Here's the facts, my dear readers: Life will change you. You will gain weight or loose weight with pregnancies. Your body will take on a completely different shape. Fashion will loose priority in your life as you delve into ways to raise your babies in a healthy and Godly way. You will have little to no time or money to spend on yourself--because your investment is now in the lives of many. You will be "the unsanitary mom" to one person, and you will be the "overly protective mom" to the next person. You won't be able to have as many carefree adventures, travel at whim, stay out as late or go out as often. But, you know what? It's ok! Because your identity isn't that. Your identity is Jesus.
Do you know how much weight you'll take off of your loved ones once you stop trying to get your identity from them or from things? The wife that knows her identity is in Jesus won't be making her husband sweat as he thinks of the correct answer to, "You think I'm fatter now, don't you?" The friend that knows her identity is in Christ won't be over-burdening her friends with her complaining about what she doesn't have. The momma who knows Jesus has her back, can drive her kids to the playground with her head held high (even though she hasn't showered or remembered to wipe the banana off her shirt) because she says, "Lord, you know how this looks. But, you also know how I spent my morning on the floor with my kids. Pouring time and love into them. And, I know you are so happy about that."
Because, the truth is. Everyone out there, and their neighbor, has an opinion. And they're all different. So, if we take our identity from what we hear about ourselves--or what we should be--we will be constanly loosing sight of who we are. Like I was.