Who you are!

You are made by God and you are called good. You are made in the likeness of God and you reflect God’s image. Although this image has been distorted through sin done by you and to you, God has not forgotten who you are and whom God made you to be. God knew you before you were born, named you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. In love, God has chosen you and the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly to restore the unique God-image you alone can reflect. – The Mentored Life 

At his baptism, Jesus was named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

When you follow Jesus into the anointing waters of baptism, you also are named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

Every person will express his or her God given identity in a way that is unique to them, but these three names form the essential truth about our identity.

Growing into this identity is the “stuff” of our life of discipleship.

“What God’s voice tells us is the true story of God’s incredible love for us. No other storyteller, however gifted, can paint for us the full, living portrait of who we are and have been and who we are becoming. Let us listen attentively, lest we forget and try to remake ourselves according to some other image.” from Magnificat

“God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.” Anonymous

Who are you? You are God’s beloved child, in whom God delights. Enough.

Facing Truth

truth road sign arrowReorientation toward truth 

God made you you on purpose, and God needs you to be you. In order to live from the freedom of your God given identity, you will need to replace the lies that you have come to believe about yourself with God’s truth concerning you. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

So how does this happen?

  1.  Identify the lies that hold us in hiding. See herehere  and here for help in identifying these lies. 
  2. Replace with lies with God’s truth. For more help read this post  A Return to Trust.

In my last entry I shared some of the lies that have held me captive. “I am powerless, there is no hope.” Here is how these lies can be replaced with truth. It’s not an easy process, sometimes it helps to have a trusted spiritual director who can walk through this with you. I’d be honored to walk with you through this exercise. Contact me if you like.

Identify an inciting incident – Prayerfully recall a specific incident from childhood that typifies how you began to believe the lie. My lie was a sense of powerlessness, yours will most likely be something different. On a family camping trip, when I was around seven years old, I was holding my mom’s hand as we walked on a small dam across a tiny creek. It was a hot day and the pond the dam created looked so inviting and cool. My mom kept saying, “Don’t go in the water” as she would push me toward the pond with a smile on her face. It was very confusing for me. I kept trying to not go in the water because that is what she told me to do. Her words said one thing, and her actions said another. I didn’t know which to obey.

Experience the feelings related to that incident – Revisit the scene in your imagination, let it come alive and get in touch with what you felt at the time.  I felt confused. I wanted to do what was asked of me, but I couldn’t determine which demand I should obey: to stay out of the water or to let my mom push me into it.

Messages/tapes that play – As a result of such incidents what messages does your subconscious hear and live by? Any decision I make will be the wrong one. I’ll get in trouble whatever I do. 

Vows I make (beliefs I hold) – What is your response to these messages? How have you determined to act in response to their demands?  I will not make any decision on my own. I will keep still and let others decide for me. 

Impact of vows – How has keeping this vow, holding these beliefs impacted your life? – I’m indecisive, passive, untrusting. I don’t know myself, I blame others for my failures. 

Relive incident with Jesus – Prayerfully re-imagine the inciting incident but this time Jesus is there with you. What does he say/do? How does he act? Notice your feelings as you re-experience the event. How does what you learned of him in your scripture study impact the outcome of this scene? Jesus walks behind us on the dam as I cross it with my mom. I know he’s there. When my mom begins to tease me by issuing conflicting messages, I hear Jesus behind me saying, “You are not crazy for being confused. Your mom is teasing you, she’s trying to be playful. She’s not trying to harm you. Relax, you can trust your instincts.” Jesus then comes between us, puts his arms around our shoulders and we all jump into the pond with surprise and laughter.

Jesus’ (re)formation activity

Jesus is committed to (re)forming you. It will take a life-time, but the sooner you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this work, the greater the opportunity for healthy and joyous life. We need to learn how to live from our God-given identity. Jesus models this perfectly. He knew who he was and why he existed. His baptism identity held him through his life. He knew he was the beloved son of God, that God was pleased with him and that he had the authority of God in his life.

As we watch him interact with people, we see him interrupt the pattern of their life and give an opportunity to live from their true self rather than their pretended, assumed self.

I suggest you complete an assignment. It involves looking at specific encounters Jesus had with people and observing how his intervention gave them a new identity. Here’s an example from my prayer journal.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” Luke 7:11-16

Jesus observes a funeral procession. He sees a woman weeping. He realizes that she was a widow, torn by sorrow, bereft of intimate relationships and left without means of support. Perhaps she felt her life was over, or maybe she wished it was. Her tears and the testimony of the whole town confirm her loss. She is ever after without hope.

When Jesus saw her he had compassion on her; he desired her tears to stop and her sorrow to end. He used his power to resuscitate the man and returned him to her, alive and well. He restored her hope.

I relate to the woman’s sense of hopelessness. I often feel that my identity, or means of being acknowledged in the world is connected to another’s ability to provide it for me. Without this connection to power, I am lost and forgotten.

Jesus sees me; he knows I am afraid. He doesn’t condemn my lack of trust and he doesn’t want my fear to swallow and paralyze me. He comes along side of me and touches the place of my hopelessness; the progression into self-pity is stopped. He resurrects my hope and gives a voice to my dreams. I receive the life he gives.

***

Listed below is a list of  encounters Jesus had that illustrate this type of intervention. Here’s the assignment: Prayerfully, read the following stories and answer the questions. You’ve just read one of mine. Please let me know what you discover.

Scripture:

  • Woman with alabaster jar Matthew 26:6-13
  • Gerasene demoniac Mark 5:1-20
  • Rich young man Mark 10:17-22
  • Annunciation of Mary Luke 1:26-38
  • Widow at Nain Luke 7:11-16
  • Woman at the well John 4:4-26
  • Woman caught in adultery John 8:1-11
  1. Observe the person’s sense of self, how he/she felt about him/herself, from where did he/she draw her identity?
  2. What evidence of struggle with pain/sorrow/pride caused by his/her sense of identity do you see in the passage?
  3. As Jesus interacts with this person, what do you learn about Jesus’ desire for him/her through his actions, words, commands toward the person?
  4. In what ways do you relate to his/her struggle, pain or strength?
  5. If this passage were the only text you had to inform you about being God’s person, and God’s desire for your sense of self, what does it tell you?

Go to the source

courseWe’re winding down the exploration of “Who am I?” in our series The New/Old where we look at old familiar topics God wants to make new. Let’s recap:

You were given biological life by the grace of God, and you were taught how to handle this gift by the influence of your parents and culture. Of course, your own temperament played a part in how these lessons were incorporated and interpreted, but for the most part you were passive in this process, you received and responded.

But now you are becoming your own agent of choice. You are wise enough to go to the source. Ask the creator of life to teach you how to live. You have much to unlearn and much to learn about this life you are seeking. God will be a faithful teacher. Jesus is your model, your instructor and friend. In the past you looked to tutors who were less faithful and true –

  • parents who, although they loved you the best they were able, did not love you perfectly and placed expectations on you that squelched your spirit, you learned to hide your true life.
  • the church, intended to train you in the love and freedom that is yours as a beloved child of God, instead taught you the life of a slave; filled with shame and rules that must be obeyed out of fear, you learned to hate your true life.
  • relationships, meant to provide the experience of intimacy, acceptance and mutual respect, instead convinced you that only perfection in body and personality could be desired and honored. Knowing your own imperfection and discovering flaws in the other eliminated the possibility of connection, you learned to wear a mask to conceal your true life.

You looked to these teachers to give you life, but they delivered death. Each death dealing “lesson” you learned, each disappointment you suffered created a wall that surrounded your true self and separated you from the source of life, God’s love. But God’s love was not content with this divide, so the trinity conspired to break down this wall of separation. The flesh and blood of Jesus eliminated this barrier and you have been brought near to the God of life. God’s grace has returned you to the place of a student, ready and eager to learn. And now Jesus will teach you. Forget what lies behind and attempt to maintain the posture of a little child who is learning things for the first time…

With you on the journey,

Debby

Ensuring acceptance and approval

We continue with our exploration of the important question, “Who am I?” The series begins here.

koolaid

We’ve drank the Kool-aid.

Our families, the feedback we receive from people, the culture and media all conspire to mis-shape us, to convince us, either innocently or intentionally, that who we are is not enough. Sadly, we have come to believe this. Most of us live with a deep-seated, core belief that we are not okay, there is something fundamentally wrong with us.

HOW WE HANDLE THIS

When I was in college there was a popular book written by John Powell, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” Powell answered the question for his readers, “because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am and I’m all I got.”

We have learned to hide the parts of our self that we fear will be rejected and instead we offer the parts of our self that will most likely buy us acceptance and approval (or at least protect us from the pain of rejection.) Why do we do this? Like Powell did before me, I will answer the question for you, “because we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”

You believe untruths about yourself. You’ve drank the kool-aid, you are convinced you need to be something more or someone different than who you are. Being unacceptable or undesirable is a pain that must be avoided at all costs. Vows are made that will protect you from relationships and situations that will arouse the pain of feeling unacceptable or undesirable. (Look here for sampling of such vows.) Without intervention, we live by these vows; they falsely promise protection from pain, but they don’t eliminate it, they only postpone it.

Yet God does not let the God-spark within you go dark; a slight and wavering ember of hope remains, announcing truth – you are valuable. Listen to this whisper, it is God’s voice calling you.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This post continues to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

What do you contain?

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Picture yourself as a piece of molten glass, your form determined by the movement and the pressure of your maker. When your maker is done, you are crystal clear and uniquely shaped. Beautiful to behold and created to contain and display what has been placed within you.

Your family values, spoken and unspoken, your God-given temperament and personality determined the shape of your container; but what do you contain? What information have you stored away? What messages have been absorbed into your identity? Who tells you who you are?

The feedback we receive about who we are and whether or not we are valued has a large influence on the contents of our container; maybe I should say it has a large influence on how we feel about the contents of our container. Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is a story told by Guy Doud, teacher of the year in 1986. He says he didn’t know he was fat until he entered kindergarden. Up until that time, he knew only what his family had told him about himself, he was loved, smart and handsome. In school his classmates told him he was fat, called him chubby and constantly teased him about his weight. These messages were more influential in forming his self-identity than the words he received at home and in church. When he felt bad about always being the last person picked for the kickball team, he would comfort himself with a bowl of ice cream. Told he was fat, he became fat.

For those of you who know me personally, you may be surprised to learn that I was a talker when I was in high school, non-stop chatter was my hallmark. (Please forgive what I’m going to say next, remember it was a long time ago in an era much less politically correct than today.) My Sophomore class raised funds for a school trip by having a “slave auction” (I warned you.) When purchased you had to do whatever your “owner” told you to, within reason of course. I was bought by my science teacher, Mr. Greenberg. As his “slave” he put a piece of duct tape over my mouth and made me wear a sandwich board that read “Supermouth is silenced.” This got me a lot of attention. People expected me to talk a lot, when I did I got noticed, so I committed myself to constant blabbering.

This pattern continued into college, when two popular girls from my church college group quoted their version of Proverbs 27:15 “A talkative woman is as annoying as the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.” They were going to “help” me squelch my talkativeness by simply saying “drip, drip” whenever they thought I was talking too much. Boy, did this shut me up. The world wanted me silenced. I grew quiet and afraid.

God’s voice, speaking of our beauty and belovedness, often gets buried by the influx of images, information and expectations coming at us. But God’s love does not abandon us. God’s inextinguishable spark of life burns within us and by God’s grace burns away all the falsehoods that have entered our souls.

This post continue to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

Born to be wild? Born to please is more likely.

It’s in our nature, we love to make the ones we love happy. As young children we live to please our parents. Nothing makes a parent happier than an obedient child, one who willingly complies with the explicit family rules and standards. These rules are created to insure safety, to promote healthy habits and to educate about a moral and ordered life. Parents hope the habits they require of their children will influence their child’s character; that the externally applied rules will be the mold that shapes the interior character of their child.

  • “Look both ways, before you cross the street.”
  • “Brush your teeth before you go to bed.”
  • “Write thank you notes to people who’ve done something nice for you.”

These explicit family rules fall short of their hoped for target. Our interior sense of self is more frequently shaped by the implicit and often unspoken family rules, which demand equal obedience and compliance. Born to please, we aim to satisfy these unarticulated family rules. Usually these unspoken injunctions end up causing harm and brokenness.

Here is an extensive, but not exhaustive list of such rules. Take a look and see if any sound familiar to you. We’ll talk more about it next post.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Examples of the relationship between family injunctions, childhood vows and current issues

INJUNCTION – Vow – Current Issues

DON’T EXIST, DON’T BE – I’m not valuable, It’s all my fault, If things get bad enough, I’ll kill myself. – Depression, Self-abuse, Suicidal thoughts or actions.

DON’T BE YOU (The sex you are, the ethnicity you are) – I should have been a boy/girl, No matter how hard I try I’ll never please, why even try? I’m shameful, I’m not good enough – Sexual identity issues, other types of identity issues, Depression

DON’T BE A CHILD – I can’t/won’t cry, I can’t have fun, I won’t ask for anything, I’ll take care of myself – Express rage when sad, Never have fun, Over serious

DON’T GROW UPI”ll always be Daddy’s little girl/ Mama’s little man, I am helpless, I need to be rescued – Separation problems, Fear of abandonment, Learned helplessness

DON’T! – The world is dangerous – Phobias, Other anxiety issues, Control issues

DON’T MAKE IT – I’ll never do anything right, I’m stupid, I’ll show you, even if it kills me, No matter how well I do, I should have done better – Repeated failure or sense of failure despite success, Life-threatening physical illness, Type A personality

DON’T BE IMPORTANT – I’ll never amount to anything – Underachievement, chemical dependency

DON’T BELONGNo one will ever like me, I’m different, I’m better than the rest of the crowd – Feeling of alienation, anger, superiority complex, paranoia

DON’T BE CLOSE I’m unloveable/unattractive, Others are dangerous – Social Isolation, Loneliness

DON’T TRUST I will never be hurt, it might kill me, I must take care of myself – Impaired relationships, Suspicious/paranoid – Extreme independence

DON’T LOVE – I’ll never let anyone close, I must keep my heart safe – Problems with intimacy, Sarcastic demeanor

DON’T BE WELL, DON’T BE SANE – I‘m frail, I’m crazy – Phobias, High susceptibility to illness

DON’T THINKI’m dumb – Extreme emotionality, academic failures, avoid decision making

DON’T THINK WHAT YOU THINK, THINK WHAT I THINKEveryone else knows better than me – Passivity, Non-assertiveness

DON’T FEELEmotions are a waste of time, to feel is dangerous – psychosomatic disorders, inability to connect with others

DON’T FEEL THATI’ll never get angry, sex is bad, crying is weak – Indirect expression of anger, Passive aggressive, Certain emotions are taboo