Identity.

What is my identity? What does that mean? How do I identify? What defines me?

I am created in the image of God. I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am Caucasian. These define me. They make up my identity.

But growing up in the conservative Christian church, I often felt like my identities were treated like boxes to be lived in instead of treasures to be celebrated. They felt more like labels to be worn than titles to be explored. They felt more like words to be endured than mantels to be adorned with.

As a Christian, I am a follower of Christ. I was told my identity was Christ, which is true. But what exactly does that mean? I think many Christians are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of not knowing what it means to have the identity of Christ and what that looks like.

I was just told by the church what I should look like. I was told what to act like. I felt pressured to look like other Christians in the church. It’s almost as if many Christians in the church don’t trust the Spirit to lead and guide Christians in living their lives. And so Christians tell other Christians how to live and be and act. And if they don’t tell them explicitly, they imply it through peer pressure or actions or sermons or silent and disapproving looks. And because of that, I never felt I could trust myself with my God-given identities and figuring them out, exploring them, and loving them. I never felt I could hear the voice of God’s Spirit over the sound of all the other voices.

I would have sacrificed myself on the altar of church.

I would have gone down the path of taking my own life because I believed I didn’t fit what the church said I should be.

I almost thought I had to.

But God.

God protected me from that trap so that I can now grow into fully being who God intended and created me to be.

God showed me my identity is not the church. My identity is not what the church says my identity looks like. My identity is not what other people tell me I should act like. My identity is in Christ, who is the author and perfecter of our faith and the creator of humanity. With such a creative force behind my life, why become entrapped by what people say I should look like? God is within me as a Spirit so I have God’s ability to live my life as God designed. And I don’t have to settle for comparing myself to any other human because God’s design for them looks completely different from God’s design for me. I wish the church would encourage more listening to God’s Spirit instead of the church taking the role of speaking for God.

So what is my identity? It’s what God creates in me. It’s what God leads me to be. It’s what God confirms in me. Identity in Christ is so much more than what people say it is. My identity is a gift, it’s an adventure, and I am not alone in it. My identity is not something to be shamed by or be in bondage to. My identity is given to me by God. My identity is greater than myself. My identity is boundless because it is from God. My identity is my life.

Confront

Clawing at my heart, as if that would make me to stop feeling things

I don’t want to feel, don’t know how to feel, don’t know what to feel, was told never to feel.

Maybe if I do my own heart removal surgery I can control

And not be pushed over by my own personal bully

Telling me to stop, don’t feel that, only feel something else.

I keep struggling, trying to get the beating organ of feeling out of my chest

So that the bully in my head won’t tell me

To shut up and be quiet and stop it.

I keep trying to get the feeling out of myself

Because the bully of my programming tells me

If my feelings aren’t “good,” they’re wrong, and not right

And need to be fixed because I must be a problem

Broken, weak, bad.

I keep trying to reach inside,

Scratching to bleed, to remove the source of blood

Because the bully tells me it is not the one at fault,

That it’s really me, it’s my heart that is to blame.

I keep fighting my heart because I have a terrorist for a bully

And I keep battling what is not the enemy – me.

I choose to not turn on myself anymore.

I choose to confront the bully and tell it that

I won’t fight myself anymore.

I’ll fight and battle the bully now instead of myself.

And I won’t struggle to pull something out of me

That I desperately need to survive.

I will push the bully out who would destroy me

If I didn’t fight for my life against it

And not me.

Faith

This was written for Cornerstone (Simi Valley) Church’s series on Hebrews in 2016-2017.

Faith is listening, not knowing, but following.

Faith is trusting, not seeing, but believing.

Faith is not understanding, but relying on the One who does.

Faith is walking without sight with the God who gives sight.

Faith is not having all the answers, but submitting to Him who does.

Faith is being with Jesus who made a way for us to be with Him.

Faith is being near to Him because He draws us close.

Faith is not being perfect, but being with Him who is.

Faith is being weak, but leaning on Him who makes us strong.

Faith is being small, but dwelling in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Faith is where our humanity reaches up to the infinite God who loves us so much that He gave us that faith in the first place.

Faith is of God and will always lead us back to Him where we are home.

Faith is His gift, treasure, prize to us.

Faith is what connects our hearts to God’s.

Millennials – 2017

A personal perspective

We are the generation you call lazy but we work three jobs just to survive

We are the ones you call disengaged but social media seems to be our only means of connection

We are the young adults you call disconnected and no wonder we appear that way when we are bombarded by dating apps and online dating as our only ways of finding meaningful bonds

We are the generation that wants to tell stories and find purpose in life but we are faced with the seemingly true reality presented by Hollywood and the internet

We are the children of parents and grandparents who voted for a president whose legacy will likely not affect them much at all, leaving us with the burden to bear

We are the generation that will live with the chief of state that calls women objects

We are the generation that will live under the incoming government who treats racial minorities like terrorists and sub-humans

We are the generation who will live with the president-elect who treats sexual and gender minorities like deviants

We are the young adults whose expensive college degrees no longer guarantee us a career and we are left with overwhelming debt to pay with little means of doing it

We are the generation where movie theaters, colleges and nightclubs can be places of massacre

We are the generation that needs an answer; that searches for wisdom, companionship and love.  We want to be found, to have a home, to belong.  We are the children who are looking for our place in the world and are struggling to find it.  We are the young people who want life, peace and health in a world that is so desperately broken.  We are the ones who long to have faith but are disappointed by institutions, saddened by power and disillusioned by authority.  We long for honesty, truth and relationships.  We desire meaning in a confusing time, relief in stressful places and quiet in the chaos.  We distract ourselves but really we just want calm in the noise.  We long for justice.  We crave security, want friendship and need realness.

Millennials, we create the world we want to live in.  We reject the fake answers.  We fight for the outsiders, the lowly, the ones who have been cast out.  We push for change.  We see through mere outward manifestations of religiosity.  We pursue our own destiny, no matter the cost.  We find our own meaningful connections in ways that make the most sense to us.  We will find our way back.  We will make a path forward.  God help us.

2016

Written last year while reflecting on previous years.

I was thinking about how glad I am for God being in my life and getting me through almost unspeakable times of struggle with severe clinical depression and social anxiety.  I would not have survived without Him.  No doubt.  But then I thought about why I had these issues in the first place.  Many things contributed of course.  But some of it was worsened by “religion.”  My faith in a true God was and is real.  But this religion was taught to me, interpreted by my mind, and skewed by people, then distorted to be something God never intended.  And I couldn’t even tell this was happening because it was this very religion that pointed me to the absolutely real God who saved me.  How crazy.  This is what God planned for me.  To suffer and come to Him in a more close relationship made possible by the suffering itself, which He redeemed for Himself.  This is all so very intertwined.

This is not my attempt to blame or find fault in institutions, churches or people.  But it is my purpose to speak my story.  I hope that it helps others to more accurately teach and more importantly, let God’s love inform their teaching.  I never want anyone to experience what I did.  If me sharing my story can help others avoid similar situations such as life-threatening depression and anxiety, then my goal is reached.

I’m the happiest now that I have ever been.  But that comes with awareness.  And knowledge of God’s trueness.  I don’t think my life is fair.  But I’m actually glad it’s not.  It is that very “unfairness” that has saved my life from deception and legalism in a broken religion that enslaved me for so many years.  I am the one that has been chosen by God to have this life and go through all these things that don’t makes sense to me.  I am the one that was picked to do the things I would have never chosen to do.  I am the one that doesn’t understand or know why things happened the way they did.  And that’s okay.  I know that now.  Because I have grown and changed.  I am whole.  I don’t need fixing because I’m not broken.

Past Mirror

With the start of a new year, I share this reflection I wrote a while back.    

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been to my own hell and back.  And I’m better for it.  Because I didn’t stay there.  I almost died but knowing that makes my life now more real.  I am full because I was empty.  I am found because I was forsaken.  I fought for my life because I almost lost it.  And I gained it back.  It was a gift.  It still is.  With this reality of life for me, I see that life is a treasure.  And God the treasure-giver.  I value knowing that darkness almost took me.  Because without it, I would have never seen the broken space I was living in.  Because that space, which was my life, was shattered, and God built me up anew.  But if I had never seen nor felt the torn, ripped, or burning, I would have never known what needed to be taken away.  And it was replaced with newness, healing, and restoration.  I’m delivered from the place of not needing saving.  I didn’t know.  I couldn’t know.  But now I value the storm that saved me from complacency by driving me to the place of facing my fears.  I was a time-bomb of self-implosion.  Now I am living and breathing today the wisdom of a God who knows no limits, boxes, or confines.  And He is the safety I feel.  He is the reason I feel.  And what greatness I feel when He breathes His life into me.  Every day.