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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our True Identity is Not What "We Do"

This is the second day reading from my book When God Speaks. I thought it would be very appropriate for anyone who has lost a job recently. By the way, you can check out an author interview of me at http://thewritechris.blogspot.com/

Many people run around searching for who they are and trying to prove their value. However, our true identity and worth are found as children of God.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:15-16

For many years I lived in bondage, yet unaware of its subtle hold on me. I had to be busy all the time— pleasing others, God and myself. I filled my life with constant activity: working, writing, taking care of the house, the children, meetings, Bible study and so on. I wanted to be a fruit-bearing tree, yet I grew too leafy.
Until one day the Master Gardener noticed how bushy my branches looked and how small my fruit. His heart longed for me to be what He originally planned, so He took out His pruning shears and began cutting. First He pruned a few leaves, a hobby here and there. It only hurt a little. Then He chopped off a major branch that cut deep—my career. Ouch! I didn’t understand what He was doing. After that, limbs fell off left and right.
I felt stripped bare. For the first time in twenty years, I didn’t have a teaching job or ministry. Except of course, taking care of the family. That clung like a lonesome leaf in winter. Other than that, I felt useless; though I realized in my spirit that God must be at work. I just didn’t know at what!
During that time I prayed a lot and cried out to God. I thought for sure I’d get another position by September, since I went on several interviews. However, God had other plans in mind. He wanted me to learn something far more important than furthering my career, and He longed for me to be secure in Him. For this to happen, there were some things I had to confront.
I came face to face with myself.
If I wasn’t a teacher, then who was I? The question loomed like an ax, ready to swing. Was God going to completely chop down my tree and start all over?
Left with a lot of free time, I busied myself with cleaning, driving the kids around, decorating the house, writing and the like. “I’m a homemaker,” I declared, but the teacher in me wilted.
As the weeks wore on, my dilemma deepened, the bills piled up and my self worth plummeted. I sensed God telling me to rest in Him, but I found that difficult.
Weeks turned into months, and I felt adrift. “If I can’t teach, then what can I do?” I convinced myself I was a complete failure, even though I knew it wasn’t true. I believed in God’s promises and clung to them. Yet, my feelings declared war with the spirit of God within me.
I joined an excellent Bible study group, which helped. Sharing the deep insights of the Word with other women made me feel valued. Still the emotional battles raged on.
After months of asking, “Why Lord?” the heart wrenching questions stopped. My spirit quieted, and the Heavenly Father now revealed a simple truth. You’re identity isn’t in being a teacher, a mother, a wife or even a Bible study leader—you’re my child. His child.
The full impact of that revelation made my heart leap for joy! God’s child. Simple, yet amazing. I needed to be still in Him. Bathe in His love. Let it sink deep into my spirit. Allow Him to feed me.
I knew God loved me, but after twenty-five years of being a Christian, I still hadn’t completely settled it in my heart. Due to my upbringing, I believed I needed to earn God’s love through good deeds, even though I knew that wasn’t biblical. He wanted me to truly experience His deep abiding love, regardless of what I did for Him.
For years I felt I needed to do great things for God. At the end of my life, I wanted God to be able to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God understood this. He knew my heart, yet He showed me: “Don’t worry. Be anxious for NOTHING” (Philippians 4:6).
That hit like a lightening bolt. God simply wanted me to rest in His unconditional love. What a relief. No more worrying about being a good Christian. I felt released, set free from a life long struggle.
Though good deeds are important, God’s more interested in our core person. I can show God my love by what I’ve allowed Him to do in my heart, and by allowing Him to love me. It’s His work, not mine.
As a type A personality this is a difficult process, although I’m making progress. I’m learning to rely on His love and not depend on what I’ve accomplished. Good deeds will spring out of my love for Him, but there are times to be still.
Though now I’m just as active as before the pruning, He set me free from my own faulty expectations and striving. Resting in His love, I am who He wants me to be—a child of God in His loving arms. He revealed my true identity.