Last night I told Evan, “I am feeling insecure right now.” Waaahhh. I think I sound like a little baby, or like a teenage girl who is too good at emoting. Too bad it’s true. I’m sure some of it is a pregnancy thing. This third trimester brought a lot of mood swings with it. Not to mention, even my maternity clothes are starting to get too small, and I get winded just walking up the stairs. I suppose that hormones + body image issues is a good recipe for insecurity.
But I also know that this feeling finds its roots much deeper within me. As a person who’s often been told that she’s “too sensitive” and “so emotional,” I have a tendency to want to sweep my feelings under the rug, to dismiss them as “just hormones,” or to belittle their importance. Over time, though, I’m learning to pay more attention to them, to recognize that perhaps God wired me to be precisely this sensitive and emotional, and to consider what they might be saying about the shape of my soul at this moment. I certainly can’t bring my insecurities into the presence of Christ (to borrow a phrase from Emily Freeman) if I’m not at least willing to acknowledge they exist.
Like a lot of things in my life right now, I’m tracing this back to leaving my job. The hardest part of leaving was not the actual leaving (though I miss my coworkers and volunteers and families SO very much), but it’s been grappling with the surprising ways leaving has revealed some ugly stuff down in my heart, some issues I’d rather not have to deal with. Like this one: I was getting almost all my self-worth from my job. Working every day is where I drew affirmation that I am needed, I am talented, my thoughts matter, my ideas matter, I have something unique to offer, God is using me to build His kingdom. Stripped of my job responsibilities, I began looking for new places from which to glean that value, and I landed on being a wife, being a mom, and being a creative person. All of those things are true and yes, the contribute value to my life, and I contribute to each of those areas in meaningful ways. But.
Here’s the problem with all this. People leave jobs. Two year olds are disobedient (and even when they’re not, they certainly don’t hand out buckets full of affirmation). Husbands and wives don’t mesh perfectly every day–feelings will get hurt or jobs will need extra attention or you’ll both be exhausted at the end of the day. Vocation and motherhood and marriage do not always go smoothly and are not always guaranteed. So what does that mean for my identity? It’s shaky at best.
In The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith has this phrase he repeats, and it goes something like, “My name is Lindsey, and I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God.” I was never meant to put even an ounce of my identity in my job, my marriage, or my kids. God gives me each of those things as an opportunity to better reflect His character and as an avenue through which I can share His love with other people. He never says, “This is who you are,” or “This is where your value lies,” or even, “This is the most important job I’ve given you to do.” I have value and worth simply because He created me and loves me; nothing needs to be added or taken away.
This is so difficult to wrap my head around in this productivity-based culture, in which every message we receive says otherwise, in which we ask people “What do you do?” immediately after learning their names.
When I get this right, I am perfectly secure. Think of Adam and Eve, strolling through that garden at the beginning. They had work to do but weren’t concerned with the method or the outcome. They had each other but were connecting instead of competing. They had a relationship with their creator but were abiding and not distracted. And all of that was true because they knew–deep down, as deeply as one could possible know it–that who they were had everything to do with whose they were.
Someone snuck in and planted the idea that actually, their value lied more in the knowledge they could stockpile, the power and influence they could acquire, and the experiences they might be missing out on.
When I look at Scripture, I imagine that Matthew had placed his identity in his vocation as a tax collector, clinging to the power it leant him. But then Jesus came over for dinner.
The woman caught in adultery put her identity in the approval of men who desired her. But then Jesus scribbled in the sand at her feet.
Martha put her identity in her productivity. But then Jesus gently said her name and invited her to come sit at his feet.
Jesus looked at each of them and said, “I don’t care who you think you are or who anyone else says you are or how you’ve been spending your time.” He says the same to me today, because he never changes. And there–right there–in the gentle presence of Christ in me, is that security I’ve been missing.
“I want to remember that the longing comes from being human, to accept I won’t always experience the satisfaction of that longing, but to understand how the longing informs my life and brings me gifts I may not even know to ask for. I want to remember how God set the longing for his kingdom in my heart and that when I settle for less than him, I’ll always be homesick…
But deep within, through the layers of external identity, we can burrow down to the deepest part of who we are, the quiet center we know is in there, the grounded place we’ve felt but can’t see. This solid ground, this rock identity, this fixed point by which all other points are measured, this is our spiritual self, our alive-ness in Christ, our true home.” —Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday