Identity Crisis

Author: Kate Franken

The words “identity crisis” generally evoke images of a pimple faced teenager and a middle aged silver-haired man that seeks comfort in adultery and a new red sports car.  This worldly association leads one to believe that identity crisis is largely confined to two occurrences, once in adolescence and then again somewhere between 45 and 60.  It is commonly believed that within these periods that the psyche is distressed as one suddenly finds themselves stuck in the midst of questioning who they are. Thus begins the quest to develop a sense of self. After a prolonged period, many assert that the answer can be found in a relationship, a job, or the objects one possesses. I believe Identity crisis is far more widespread, and more debilitating, than the stereotypes lead one to believe. I think a more accurate portrayal would be the individual living in hidden anguish brought forth by seeking fulfillment in anything else other than Christ (i.e. the curse of the idolator). When one fails to find their true purpose in life, to bring praise and glory to His Kingdom, the weight bears down.

It really wasn’t until a series of events this past year that this 30-something came to this understanding.  While reading Tim Keller’s “Counterfeit Gods” I was awakened to the identity crisis I was in.  His definition of an idol spoke loudly to me, “…anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

My heart broke upon reading these words, knowing that I’d dishonored Him in my failing to properly esteem Him. I had some firmly established idols in my life. The most pronounced idols were that of the relationship I was in at the time and my determination to construct the map and steer my life in the direction I decided it should go. I earnestly prayed to shed the false idols and to find my identity in Him alone.  Initially, when I prayed this prayer, I didn’t truly understand what it meant.

Then I opened up Jennie Allen’s book “Anything”, and her words spoke God’s truths just as Keller’s had.  In “Anything”, she paints the picture of what it is to have one’s identity in Christ. It is a surrender that is willing to abandon EVERYTHING, to do ANYTHING for God.  Instantaneously I tasted the words “I can’t” and shame fell upon me, for it exposed the holes in my faith.

I didn’t want to leave the false security of my idolatrous dreams.  And yet I hungered and thirsted for God.  I was divided.  I wanted to have God in my image. I wrestled like Jacob.  And the end result was just the same, I was drawn closer to Christ. The truth of the bigness of my God and the smallness of my idols pervaded the discord.  I experienced the grace God mercilessly pours out to us, as undeserving as we are.

I must feed on the gospel habitually, for my identity in Christ is always under attack.

I must dwell on the greatness of my King, for old idols can easily steal back my  heart’s affection when my eyes fall short.  I must give up my life as I’d like to orchestrate it, to truly find life, life that is eternal and fulfilling.  I must let Christ alone define me, and disregard the lies the Devil whispers. I must pray fervently for His protection, for without Him I am weak. I must trust Him, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

I must surrender. My “I must” statements help me to guard against the vast empty pit of discontent from a misplaced identity.

~~~

Readers,  What threatens your sense of identity? How can you find freedom from the pressures to define yourself?

Kate Franken is a 5th grade teacher, a lover of books, and a coffee connoisseur. She enjoys a good conversation, chases after her beautiful dogs, and serves as the volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. You can find her previous posts here.

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The Faithful Oak

The soft grasses sway in the light breeze. The luscious meadow appears to be dancing to a tune not played for human ears. The afternoon sun warms the rippling brook framing the ancient oak tree that still stands firm.  Its roots delve deeply into the earth below. The knotty bark echoes stories of children swinging on summer days from a rope and families gathering to picnic. The branches, strong and plentiful, provide respite from the heat as they offer shaded shelter with their leaves. Storms have attempted to destroy the old oak, but it tarries through. It has purpose, and its might is evident. Those who know this oak seek and find refuge beneath its splendor.
As I sit down to write this post on identity, I envision the old oak tree above. I want to be this oak tree. Rooted. Strong. Someone who can provide refuge for others. Near to a source of Living water. Purposeful and hearty.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 shares, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in 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 the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

If I’m honest, in the past few months, I have had many anxiety-inducing thoughts attempt to ravage my peace and make home in my head. I have a feeling of restlessness. The unrest is not dissatisfaction with my life currently, but an acknowledgment that God is stirring up my heart. He is up to something and is busy readying me for change. I am unsure of what development may unfold, but it’s coming. I can feel it. Trusting in God’s plan and purpose during this time has been challenging. I have felt a disconnect with people and the activities that I love, and my heart aches. Despite all this, at my core, I know God is so very good. Whatever it is, I know it will be better than what I could plan for myself.
As I wrestle through this period of uncertainty, my heart longs to identify with the tree in the meadow, rooted, bearing fruit, and seeking sustenance from God. To know like the stream, I  need not be anxious during this time of disquiet, but faithful and obedient in my current surroundings as I flow toward His will. I may not know what lies ahead in my life, but I know that if I identify with the characteristics of the old oak tree, I will not sway with passing storms. I will not be enslaved by fear, but I will stand strong. Trusting in the Lord and His purpose.



Readers, What is God asking you to trust Him with today?

Sarah believes Go0752d-sarah2bsquared has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.

Hope on Distant Shores

Author: Rachel Olson

Just over a year ago, a lifelong dream came true. I was accepted to join Mercy Ships, an organization that brings free surgical care to some of the poorest countries of Africa. I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved to Madagascar, where I have spent the past eight and a half months wading through what it means to live and work in another culture loving people very different from me.

This all started back in middle school, when God clearly called me to spend my life with the world’s forgotten poor. That call stemmed from a close relationship with God, during a huge season of growth when I was pouring frequent, consistent time into seeking his guidance and he was radically transforming me and putting new desires in my heart. And yet even with that firm foundation, I was tempted to put international ministry on a pedestal. During the many years of waiting for this dream to come to fruition, I had expectations of how it would deepen my faith. Now that I am finally stepping into this calling, I have found something concerning — others are putting me on a pedestal for it.

I work for an organization whose motto is to “bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.” I have watched fragile, starving infants slowly become plump and healthy right before my eyes. I have seen deep despair in a patient’s eyes be replaced by joy in a matter of days. I am living in a place where the transformation is clearly visible.It is easy for me, and others, to see purpose and meaning in my work. It can be easy for my job to look more valuable or fulfilling than someone else’s. And yet, more and more, I am realizing these things can still be meaningless externals by their own merit. None of this, not one of our good things, brings purpose or fulfillment on its own.

I still believe obedience is key for living in intimacy with God, and for me that obedience meant walking into international ministry; so in a roundabout way living this life should be fulfilling. Yet I am finding that hope does not come from anything I can do or have done for God. Hope can only be found in God — in who He is, and what He has done. I can strive and work out of my own strength for God my entire life in stress, angst, and exhaustion. I can do great things that people may applaud me for, or I can seek to join God in what He is doing. Seeking to be close to His heart without my value or worth being dependent on my performance or the feedback of others. These two ways of living look similar on the outside, but in the heart they are worlds apart.

The plan for my life may be to dive into international ministry for the long haul, or it may turn out to stay there only for a season; but ultimately my purpose is to seek and know Jesus regardless of the country I am in or the level of economic standing I am surrounded by. My desire in living well is not to create my own hope, but to live out of the hope he gives.  I seek and pray that Jesus will help me to remember and walk in this truth.

~~~
Readers, Have you been tempted to elevate good works over grace by faith, or to lift dreams above the God who saves? It is easy to do, but a right view of our lives, hopes, and God will bring more peace than any desire and lead us into the adventure of living for the glory of God. 

Interested in supporting Rachel? Check out the info in her bio.

Thanks for reading,
The Anchored Voices Team

Rachel Olson enjoys reading, making music and exploring new cultures. She especially loves seeing patients find healing, often after years of waiting with no chance of receiving surgical care. To hear more about her journey with Mercy Ships or how you can be a part of it, visit mundanesplendor.blogspot.com or facebook.com/rachelinafrica

Hope for Mom

The crowd was a-buzz. Well-wishers, families settling into their seats, and most better dressed than a normal week. I knew the moment was coming.

The opening song rang through the sanctuary, and I felt a dread sweep through me. I had experienced it before, each year it had taken on new and different dimensions. It was Mother’s Day.

“All moms please stand,”… I heard, I stood and I struggled to look forward.  That’s all I recall. I don’t remember any of what was said. I know we were loved, appreciated, and applauded.

I fully support honoring mothers and I wouldn’t discourage this practice. It’s just that I was in the thick of disappointment. I held onto a false ideal of motherhood, and it was threatening me to the core.

 The year before a sweet friend whispered into my ear that though children were not in our home, my heart was that of a mother.  I cried because it was my deepest wish. I tried to brush it off and smile at the next friend to reassure them that I was ok.

A year later, my foster daughter sat next to me. I was fully immersed the act of mothering, except at that moment, she didn’t yet claim me. I don’t blame her, I was the 6th mom she’d had and we’d had only 6 months of introduction. I answered to my first name, and did everything I could to love her.

I know now that no matter how one comes to it, motherhood is a fight; reality never matches the Pinterest perfect picture, timeline, or even expectations of how we will respond to mothering day in and day out.  No one comes to it easily; we all have different labors to go through that cannot be compared.

Some yearn for children, others feel overwhelmed in the sea of small people. The details of every day overwhelm as we begin to realize—no child comes with instructions. Though we cannot fully be in the shoes of one another, I’ve been most blessed by friends who have been able to say, “Your stuff is real.  Your emotions, hopes, and struggles are valid, and we are in this fight together.”  In return I’m able to say the same back.  Rather than sinking into the pain of our different situations and creating distance, we build one another up, pray for one another, and are united in our desire to honor God with our mothering in good times and bad.

I hope this Mother’s Day your battle, whatever it is, is recognized and honored by those who have walked in your shoes, and by those who have not.  For women who have faced loss, of a child, or of your own mother, we honor you.  For women who long to have children, we honor you.  For women who are in the deep throes of parenting, we honor you. For the mom who is doing it all on her own, we honor you. For women whose children have grown up and moved out, we honor you.  For women who are mothering children who aren’t biologically related, we honor you.  For women who aren’t quite there yet, we honor you.  For women discipling and mentoring those without mothers, we honor you.

I hope you can bring the insecurities, anxiety, and fear that somehow your mothering won’t measure up to the gracious feet of Jesus, and realize that your identity is fully in him.  No lack in your mothering, failure, or success can make you any less, or more loved than you already are.

In the midst of the battle, I’ve found hope that though motherhood is a gift, it is not who I am.  God does not look at me and say, “Mommy,” Or, “So and so’s Mom.” Instead he calls me by name.  He is personally loving, knowing all the places I’ve strived, failed, cried and given up.

Isaiah 43:1 declares:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
~~~

Readers,

We know that Mother’s Day can be a hard day for some. It can be a reminder of broken dreams, unfulfilled hopes, even deep shame. It can intensify the loss of a mother or a child, and it can push many memories into the forefront of our mind which we would rather not dwell on. Know that God cares deeply about the hurts and desires of your heart. He longs to be the one you look to for comfort and to draw you near. Know that your plea is not unheard, and you are not unseen. He sees you, He hears you, and He is weaving something beautiful together as He becomes the anchor for your soul.

Jesus, I ask for your mercy and love to surround the hurting, for your love to wash over their lives, and for the peace that passes understanding to be that on which they rest. In Jesus’ name-Amen

Thanks for Reading,

Anchored Voices Writers

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.