I started gymnastics at the age of three and it became my life. My identity over the next seventeen years. Bringing me recognition, awards and a scholarship to continue my career into college. Part way through my freshman year, everything changed. I endured four knee surgeries in one year and made the difficult decision to walk away from the only thing I knew. From my identity.
What ensued in the years following my decision, was a continuous pursuit to finding and achieving my next identity.
• Religion . . . if I attend church and check the boxes required to wear the label of “Christian,” maybe that identity will make me enough.
• Education . . . if I earn a master’s degree and am the president of a charter school board, maybe that identity will make me enough.
• Marriage . . . if I marry a smart, handsome and successful man, maybe that identity will make me enough.
• Children . . . if I become a mom and wear a superwoman cape, maybe that identity will make me enough.
As I navigated my pursuit for identity, my pursuit to be enough, I entered into what would become a long season of pain, struggle and heartache. After delivering my third child, I experienced postpartum depression. A few months later, the church I was attending and the school board I was president over, were caught in a web of secrets, lies and deception, forcing me to walk away from both. Deeply hurt and lost, I wrestled through a myriad of emotions from disappointment and betrayal, to anger. Anger at the church. Anger at the people who had professed to be “Christians.”
In a culture of comparison. In a culture of be better, go bigger and do more, I felt small, stupid and worthless. I was a little girl trying to feel enough in her identity but instead, feeling as though she were failing miserably as a “Christian,” as a wife, as a mom, as a person in general. My natural response was to abandon church and let God be God to everyone else, but not to me. I envisioned myself sitting in a room, surrounded by these titles and identities, wrestling with the question, ‘Who am I?’
When my emotions settled, I felt an invitation to enter into my story. An invitation to a journey. A journey to be taken at my pace. To be taken in my time. To seek the answer to my question. In my search, I began to take small steps back in the direction of God. Not God the religion, but God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It was messy. It was hard. And I was utterly unaware of what this journey was preparing me for.
On a beautiful fall morning, I called my mom to follow up with her regarding a medical appointment she had. On the other end of the phone, I hear the words “They found a mass on my pancreas and my liver.” My breath was caught. While my mom was being optimistic and trying to reassure me it was likely nothing, something in my spirit knew it was. Later that evening, sitting with my husband at the kitchen table, he began to pray. As I closed my eyes, an image appeared that will never leave me. An image of me, handing my mom over to the Father.
The following day, I received the devastating news. My mom had stage IV pancreatic cancer. As I began to walk with her through an almost nine-month battle, I learned the answer to my question, ‘Who am I?’ I am a daughter. The image of me handing my mom over to the Father, was a picture of me releasing control and taking my seat as a daughter. Allowing God to be God, provided the opportunity for me to be what my mom needed . . . perfectly imperfect me. No titles. Simply her daughter. To see her, love her and be present with her.
Our identity is not a status or a position to be achieved. It is who we are. Daughters. When I reflect back to my “identities,” there was always a striving associated with it. I strived to be the best gymnast. I strived to be good enough as a “Christian”. I strived to earn a degree that would make me smart enough. The pursuit of enough is an exhausting, soul killing race. While some moments result in an initial high, the end result is a never-ending cycle of death.
Our striving will never be enough. I invite you to sit with the question, ‘Who am I?’ To have our eyes opened to the truth, brings us a freedom and a revelation that we each carry a unique beauty to unveil to the world. A beauty held in our identity as daughter.