At the beginning of the year I bought a big, black artist journal with the intention of filling it with notes on what the Bible says about self-esteem, purpose and identity. I began this year feeling restless and insecure and didn’t want to start a new year feeling this way. In my search, I parked myself in the chapter of John 15 where Jesus teaches the lesson of the vine and the branches. Now it is the month of March and 42 journal pages later I have come to one simple conclusion:
Remaining in Christ – like a branch on the vine – is the most vital connection I’ll ever make in my life and is the only connection that defines me.
Jesus says in John 15:5:
I am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
What I hear Jesus saying to me is that if I attached myself to him like a branch on a vine, then my identity will be clearly defined.
Ephesians 2:10 says:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When God created me and you, He considered us his handiwork. The definition of handiwork is work done by hand. Work done by hand is full of tender care and thought. Therefore, each one of us was not mass produced like clones in a factory, but rather we were carefully knit together in our mother’s womb to be born with unique dispositions, talents and physical traits. Ephesians 2:10 reveals to me that God prepared for our arrival on this earth with the intention for us to be in Christ, and from this position, to do good works.
But why do we look every where else but God to define who we are? When we lose connection to our creator and misunderstand the purpose for which He created us, our identity goes into crisis mode.
What are the outward forms we attach ourselves to that take the place of this deep abiding connection with God?
- We view ourselves through the lens of all our failures and what we think we should have achieved already, and if we don’t meet our own expectations of ourselves, we experience an identity crisis.
- We view ourselves through the lens of how others view us or how they treat us, and then we spend a lifetime trying to undo the damage that their treatment has done to our self-worth.
- We view ourselves through the lens of our college degrees, jobs, economic status and appearance, but our pride causes us to compare ourselves to others because we don’t measure up to what they have achieved, so what we have accomplished is still not good enough.
I must admit that #1 describes me most of my life; however, I’m in a season in my life where I am done with struggling with self-esteem issues. I have cried so much this past year about who I think I am. I suppose it took the crisis of a divorce for me to finally dig deep to discover how I view myself and my identity.
Jesus always knew who He was, and as he walked the dirty roads of this earth with his disciples, he demonstrated a relationship so deep with his Father in heaven that it profoundly impacted them. Jesus was resolute in His Father’s purpose – his motivation was loud and clear.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Jesus did not attach himself to outward forms but rather was driven by an internal compass that was the result of a deep connection with His Father in heaven. The disciples were still identifying mostly with physical things and that is why Jesus told them, “I have food you know nothing about.” This declaration of Jesus leads me back to Ephesians 2:10 that says, “God created us in Christ to do good works which he prepared in advance for us to do.”
Now I can see why Jesus says in John 15:5:
apart from me you can do nothing
Just like Jesus had an unwavering focus on his Father in heaven, the woman who wiped Jesus’s feet with her tears was so focused on Jesus that she did not even notice she was being judged and labeled by the people around her.
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Can you imagine being able to be this vulnerable with Jesus even amid people who were judging you and placing labels on you?
The Pharisee was referring to her as “a sinner” and not worthy of Jesus. However, this woman already knew she was a sinner, and this acknowledgement enabled her to cry at Jesus’s feet and not be bothered by the Pharisee. The Pharisee didn’t think he was a sinner, so he was full of judgment and didn’t revere Jesus like the woman did. Who do you think had the better self-esteem? I think the woman did.
When Jesus is our all, our savior, our Lord, then identity is no longer an issue. What people think about us no longer devastates us or even matters. Think about the days you’ve spent adoring Jesus in your mind and what that day looked like verses a day you were focused on yourself.
I recently rediscovered an old song from the 1980’s. It reminds me of how much God values each one of us individually and the work he has prepared for each one of us to do. We need to see this work as a divine appointing no matter how simple or small a task it might be.
All I ever have to be
the weight of all my dreams
Is resting heavy on my head
And the thoughtful words of help and hope
Have all been nicely said
But I’m still hurting, wondering if I’ll ever be the one
I think I am–I think I am.
Then you gently re-remind me
That You’ve made me from the first
And the more I try to be the best
The more I get the worst.
And I realize the good in me is only there because of who
You are, who You are.
And all I ever have to be is what
You’ve made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find
And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be is what You’ve made me
Songwriters: Gary Winthur Chapman
All I Ever Have to Be
lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group
Are you in identity crisis mode? If so, look to Jesus. He is all you’ll ever need to feel loved, special and unique. Here are just a few verses in the Bible that tells us God sees us:
John 1:12; John 15:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Galatians 3:27-28; 1 John 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8; Matthew 5:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 15:16 Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 8:37; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:16-17.