I was strongly rooted in my singleness. I was content in that season. I had grown up in the same city for thirteen years with many friendships built along the way. I was a leader among the youth and singles in my church. But then I married my husband, which meant moving out of my parents house for the first time and leaving the rest of my family and friends to move out of state. When I moved from Orlando to Philadelphia I didn’t know anybody unless they were friends of my husband, and everybody knew me as his wife. I had also just graduated college and couldn't find a good job in my new city. I experienced a multitude of quick transitions at once, and I had an identity crisis. I didn't know what to do with my life except clean our one-bedroom apartment, wash and dry our clothes at the laundromat, grocery shop, and attempt cooking. Growing into a wife away from home was lonely.
When I did finally find a job I was pregnant two months after I started. I stayed home after our first son was born, and just when I was getting comfortable with the new me, my identity changed again. I had a traumatic birth experience and a battle with baby blues my first month home with my newborn. On top of that I was adjusting to the constant demands of a nursing baby who kept me up at night. I was being stripped of my independence, learning about true sacrifice and the strength of a selfless life.
My identity changed when I moved and became a wife and then a mom. It was like adding layers on a cake. The cake is still a cake, but the layers keep growing. And the transitions of adding new layers to my identity felt like growing pains. The biggest transitions of my life made me who I am now, because I was humbled through those experiences. It’s God's natural way of perfecting my identity in Christ; to become more like him. Because I belong to him and he disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6).
These life transitions remind me that identity is a complex topic and not something that can be reduced to one or two things, like being a wife and mother. There are many layers that make up who we are, but one most important layer is the foundation. What is the foundation of your identity? Foundations are vitally important, but in life, easy to forget. As G.K. Chesterton says, “We have all forgotten what we really are.” This is why so many people run around trying to “find themselves” and discover who they really are. We are confused, because we don’t have a solid foundation. We have all forgotten that we are made in the image of God. We belong to him and our purpose (or identity) is in imaging him.
In his Boundless article, "Why You Should Stop Being Yourself," Alan Noble reminds us that our worth is tied to the very image of God. He shows us how to find our true self:
“And those in the church could be reminded that their identity is hidden in Christ, in His finished work on the cross, not in whatever self they cobble together out of commercials and daydreams and societal expectations. And that identity, well, that identity doesn’t change, even though it changes us, molds our hearts, transforms our minds and renews our spirits. It’s pretty hard to capture this identity in an Instagram photo, but it doesn’t need that kind of validation. It’s true because He is true.”
On the surface our identity is always changing, but we can find comfort in the fact that God rules and reigns over our shifting identities. And underneath the shifting sand of our identity he gives us the solid foundation of identity in Christ. It is ultimately our identity in Christ that grounds us. He will hold us fast. He doesn't change. His identity doesn't shift. He has no identity crisis. So, Christ is the perfect source for fixing our identity. Colossians 3:3 says, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." An identity crisis is a form of death. The lush green leaves are dropping off the tree to usher in a cold and barren winter, but spring comes next with budding new life. This is how God uses our shifts in identity: we're dying to the old and becoming something new. The constant death to life type change is the continual cycle of the one who is hidden with Christ. But our roots must be in Christ, like Colossians 2:6-7 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
The wisest thing to do in an identity crisis is to put our trust in the Lord. When we do this we will not dry up in the heat, but we will get our nourishment from putting our roots deep down into the water of the gospel in Christ.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” -- Jeremiah 17:7-8