Now that I have titled this blog, all I can here is a little robotic voice saying "Wall-E" in my head. If you have watched the Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E as much as I have, you would too. My mind has automatically gone to the scene when Eve tells Wall-E to identify himself...anyway, on to the real post.
This post is copied from a blog that I like because it usually makes me literally laugh out loud. It is from the author Jon Acuff who wrote the book Stuff Christians Like and the blog is about the same subject. It is kind of a tongue in cheek, poking fun at yourselves, commentary on how Christians or churches do things. If you have grown up in church, there will be lots of posts that sound very familiar to you. He is also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, again causing me to LOL. While the posts are usually meant to be humorous, he posts a serious one each Wednesday meant to encourage the reader in their Christian walk. He actually calls them Serious Wednesday blogs.
With my new book Quitter coming out on May 10, one of the questions I have bouncing around in my head is, “What if it fails?” The Stuff Christians Like book did well and there’s a part of me that fears that Quitter won’t do as well. I know that’s a negative thought, but I want to be honest about what’s bouncing around in my head right now.
Here’s what Daniel told me: “The problem is that we all start off with an identity. It’s who we are and who God made us to be. Then we have some small degree of success and we add that to our identity. That success becomes our identity. So now, when we try something new, we’re not just afraid to fail, we’re afraid to lose our identity. That’s what’s terrifying. That’s why people are afraid to take risks or try new things. It’s not just failure at stake, we think we’re going to lose our identity and that’s overwhelming.”
That mentality is easy to see in a city like Nashville. I have musician friends who released successful first albums and are now afraid to release a second album. Because if success is their identity, if they fail, they’ve lost their entire identity. But I don’t think that’s just something artists struggle with. The truth is, I think on some level must of us wrestle with the temptation to let other things become our identity.
You see this in parents who turn the performance of their kids into their identity. Sometimes parents get crazy with pushing kids in sports or school because more than a soccer goal or a spelling test is at stake. Their identity is up for grabs.
You see this in dating relationships. Sometimes we’re desperate for them not to end for the wrong reasons. With popular song lyrics telling us, “What am I supposed to do, when the best part of me was always you?” it’s so easy to think, “If I lose this boyfriend, I’ll lose my whole identity.”
You see this at work, when someone scraps and fights for a surprisingly small amount of power and politics inside a cubicle. It’s not a bonus at stake or a plaque or a recognition, it’s their identity they’re fighting for.
Over and over again, whether you’re writing a new book, or dating a new girl or applying for a new job, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “identity addition.”
But that debate is over. You’re identity has been decided. How you perform in a new opportunity will not finalize that. You are a son or daughter of Christ. You are an heir to the throne. No success or failure should become your identity. No rise or fall can determine who you are. And though that feels simple and sometimes even impossible to believe, that is what I remind myself of every day. We are God’s children. And you and I can rest in the truth of that and be bold in the risks we take and the hope we have. Because our identity is not at stake.
To be honest, I was not aware that I was struggling with identity problems until after reading this commentary. But I am. It has been a while I think since I have felt like I had much of an identity besides being a mom. I have been filling out job applications and have to answer those dreaded "List 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses" part of the application or other various "tell us about yourself" questions. I have actually had to ask my husband to describe me so I would know what to answer. I used to look for strategic answers to those questions (I mean seriously, who wants to really answer what you are bad at on something that decides if you will be hired by a company or not). But this time around, I am really not sure how to describe who I am.
To be perfectly clear, I love identifying myself as a mother. There is no role that I have ever or will ever be prouder of than being Mama to my two precious kids. No one can make me feel as good about myself than my little boy because to him my only fault is enforcing naptime. An excited voice calling "Mama!" when I come through the door changes a bad day to good in an instant. Even my 6 week old little girl can make me feel like the most special person in the world when she gives me certain looks. I love that I know my kids and their unique qualities because of the time I spend with them and get to be a large part of the shaping their lives.
But I have kind of lost sight of who I am beyond that. In pondering where I find my identity, I think I used to find it in what was affirmed that I was good at by someone else. When I got commended on school work, or someone paid me a compliment, or an idea was proven to work at a job...that is when I would be able to say "(fill in the blank) is a good quality of mine". I just don't hear that kind of thing often anymore because my life doesn't lend itself to having things to prove what I do well, besides being a good mom. Now I do know I am an "awesome buddy" because my son told me that the other day and that is a pretty cool attribute! I would rather my son think I am an awesome buddy any day than being told I wrote an A quality paper.
So I needed to read the last part of Jon's post, reminding me who I am regardless of affirmations or titles or successes. That identity was bought with a high price and there is nothing I can do to lose it. And at the end of this life, that is the only identity that will matter.