Finding one's identity is a life-long journey. This endeavor to self-discovery, however, isn't an aimless wandering. Rather, it is a constant and purposeful pursuit. Identity is something that must be discovered, and this definition is one that ought not be held stagnant but permitted to shift and mold according to life's seasons. Throughout life we encounter experiences, people, and objects which will shape our definition of self, regardless of whether those inclusions are negative or positive. These are our conditions, and one of our greatest personal challenges in life is separating our identity from our conditions. Conditions- our friends and family, our home, our occupation, our role with regard to others etc- change. If we define ourselves exclusively by our conditions, then when they do change we will be left at a loss for who we are and where we go from there. All that we thought we knew of ourselves would have been revealed to be a false sense of self.
I described in a previous post a time in which my sense of self was heavily defined through the condition of college. I viewed and presented myself with a false sense of confidence and identity based solely on the circumstance that I was a college student, where I attended or what field I was studying. When that condition revealed itself to be hollow, I was left certain that that wasn't my true self but also aware that I didn't know who I was beyond those descriptions.
I later entered the realm of homemaking. I've studied this subject matter and have taken great delight in learning and practicing this way of life. Finally, I felt a little closer to knowing and living truer to myself. Yet, when my husband's job shifted us from a nightshift schedule lifestyle to a dayshift, my role as exclusive homemaker had to also be redefined in ways. He began to form good relationships with his coworkers, enjoy his job more, and have more time to do things outside of work. The new hours and increased availability has also allowed him to take responsibility for many areas that were previously completed by me alone. I'm genuinely thrilled for him, but initially I also felt as though I was no longer needed. Once more, an uncertainty of what I should be doing also translated to an uncertainty of who I should be. Who we are and what we do are often so intertwined that they two form such a combination that they are difficult to separate. Homemaking and the associated tasks were what I did and how I saw myself, so what do I do when the role is no longer the same? Familiar insecurities of needing to feel worthwhile, valuable and needed based on my contributions to another person or area of work crept into my considerations of myself. Then, it occurred to me that this is yet another occasion in which my identity must be not be founded by my conditions but enhanced by them instead.
A definitive way to determine if our identity is truth or dependent on a condition is to ask what state it would be in if that condition were to change or be lost completely. Jobs change. Friends change. Family situations change. Residences change. Financial situations change. Roles change. Education avenues and opportunities change. There is little in life that will remain perfectly still. If we have attached our identity exclusively to one (or many) of these entities, then when they do change we are lost not only for them but also for what they have falsely represented- ourselves.
In some situations, the inability to separate our identity from our conditions in order to allow that definition to experience those seasons of modification may result in the entity being lost entirely instead of just changed. To place the means of definition solely on a role or relationship is to weight it down with far greater responsibility than it was ever intended to hold. Eventually that role or relationship breaks. My husband does not need me to take care of absolutely everything for him in order for me to have a sense of worth. He needs me to recognize and appreciate myself for the qualities that he sees in me. (After all, he was attracted to me enough to marry me long before I performed or became any of the things I do/am now. There must be something to that, right?). My husband is blessed in having a wife who has placed her identity in the proper places. Similarly, though I am not a mother now I dream of that condition in the future. As much as I desire that state of motherhood, I also know that it is not wise for me to define myself through my children. Again, children were never meant to be the means of defining the parent, though they can certainly enhance that definition. My children need me to be able to guide them through proper pathways of discovering and being secure in their identities, and I cannot do that if I haven't achieved them myself. If not, then my identity would be lost when the children grow into independent adults who no longer need me in the same capacity, and eventually this heavily burdened relationship breaks. If we're not bending our definition of self, then something is consequently breaking. I bless my husband or family when I am secure in my identity.
Where does this secure identity come from? How is it attained when so many avenues of discovery are revealed to be false? I believe it must come from a source that doesn't change- God. God carefully crafts and creates us (Psalm 139:13-14). He also gave his son to save us (John 3:16). I believe we are created to be who we are to serve and glorify God in our own unique ways. If I’ve based my identity on conditions rather than God, then am I living to the potential that He intended for me? Am I using the conditions He has placed before me as means of enhancement or definition? He is the only solid and secure place to come to know who I am because that knowing is then based on who He is.
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