In Pursuit of: identity (2)

Today I am starting with the word “image.”  The Bible first uses this word when God says “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26).  It is used in this context five times.  The pursuit of identity, also begins in this story.  Humanity was created to carry a resemblance of God in our physical being.  Our natural state has an innate reflection of God.  Therefore, when we recognize our own characteristics, God is there, in the midst of every individual. We cannot escape His presence.

Despite the temptation of being defined by these attributes, identity should not be placed in the characteristics alone.  Identities crumble when the attributes of God become the pursuit of life, rather than God, himself.

An identity based on being a perfectionist, could be formed from a desire to be more like God. It could emerge from a longing for God in the day-to-day.  A life in pursuit of perfection will eventually turn a person from waiting on God’s perfection to be revealed, toward creating circumstantial perfection in the day-to-day.  An impossible task.  Perfection is a burden that was not meant to be carried on human shoulders.  An identity built on perfectionism will overpower any person and one day become too heavy and the identity will crumble.    So it will be with an identity built on any of the godly attributes: love, peace, relationship, justice, strength, and wisdom.  These attributes reflect God’s character.  Each of these are reflections of something greater that we are not able to fully acquire.  The pursuit of godly attributes for the sake of empowering a worldly identity, is a truth turned upside down.  The godly attributes are tools to lead us to God alone.  A dedication to one divine characteristic is a pale replacement for a life in pursuit of God.

The first biblical uses of the word “image” was when God placed a reflection of himself in humanity.  The rest of the Old Testament uses the word to describe how humanity created false reflections of God.  It is our responsibility to recognize the reflection of God in ourselves and to use what we find, to return to Him.

 

 

In pursuit of: identity

When I began to recover from my surgery, my middle daughter wrote a story about me.  In the story she used words like scary, yuck, and weird.  Those words were all describing how she felt about me, specifically my looks.  I used her feelings to teach her, what seemed obvious, but didn’t come easily.  I may look different, weird, yucky or scary but who I am has not changed.  I said this over and over.  The person you know and love has not changed.  I am still here.  I look different. I act differently, but I am the same.

I am fortunate that I never built my identity around my body.  I have walked away from enough jobs to not have an identity in my occupation.  I have learned my identity cannot be in anything within my control.  Everything can be lost.  Everything can be taken away.  Everything can be left behind.

The problem with identity is that we create it for ourselves.  We have a thought, agree with that thought and begin to act upon the thought.  The thought grows into a philosophy and the philosophy becomes a way of life.  In difficult times, my thoughts are:  Why am I here?  Where are my friends? Will my family still love me? Will this last forever? And on and on my mind reels.  My answers to these questions can shape my philosophy about hardship and therefore, my identity.

If I am ever vigilant, my identity will remain secure in what God has declared about my life.  I am chosen. I have a family. I have a purpose. I am forgiven. I am blessed (Eph 1:4-10).  And this is just the beginning of who I am, the beginning of my true identity.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation, fill your heart with truth.  Do not align yourself with fear that comes with each new season.  Let the moments pass and the fear to pass with it.  Align yourself with truth and this truth will free you from fears, new and old.

Pursuit of: internal peace

During my year of illness I chose to pursue internal peace.  I had many forces working against me. Circumstances opened up opportunities for fear to rule.  My brain chemistry changed and my mind fought against me.  Then there was the internal monologue, the mental energy that carries a façade of logic but turns into a checklist of hurts and fears.

In my year, only one thing steadied my mind and allowed me to walk in peace.  I chose to turn my mind toward God, turn my trust to Him (Is. 26:3), and to live not from my circumstance but according to His perspective of my life.  My disease might be healed with one word.  My disease might be cured in one year of treatment. My disease might be managed over the course of a life.  Whatever my physical destiny is, my mental peace is the source of my true destiny.

Peace comes through choice.  Trust leads to peace.  Righteousness leads to peace (Is 32:17). Faith in Jesus leads to peace (John 16:33).  When my life is filled with love, there is no room for fear to remain (1 John 4:18).

I have tested each of these and I found them to be true.

At the end of my treatments, my mind turned against me.  My fears, my hurt, were not something I could control.  My mind dimmed and a grey haze settled in.  There was no clarity.  Depression took my last strength and pushed me into a constant noise, a throbbing hurt.  With the end of treatments, the haze lifted for me, but for many people it is always there.  It is important to recognize that inner peace looks different for each of us.  For me, peace feels different today than it did a month ago.  No matter what level of clarity I am able to obtain, my faith will make me strong and I will choose to go in peace and let healing follow (Matthew 5:34).

 

In pursuit of : retreat

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

In December of last year I started pumping myself with small amounts of poison.  You would be surprised how little poison it took to strip me of who I was.  The tiniest amounts took me from a healthy woman balancing family and work, to a woman who could barely crawl out of bed.

These small amounts of hurt coursed through my veins.  It wasn’t just my strength, that was gone, I could see it visibly effect in my body.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how every part of me was changed.  Every cell that could grow, would also die because of this poison.

It caused me to start paying attention to my body, especially the parts that die.  Skin becomes dry and can be scraped off.  Fingernails grow and are cut away, as is hair.  New growth is always pushing forward in our bodies.  There is regeneration that we can witness if we are aware.

The earth is here to teach us things of the spirit. Simply by living, I am a new creation, every seven years, but that is my natural state and my natural state is a dim reflection of what I can be, who I am.  If our bodies need to shed the old, I believe our spirits do as well.

Our spiritual life is built on truths and lies.  God provides truth and we understand and accept it at varying levels.  Our life experiences provide us both truth and lies.  We accept both the good and the bad at varying levels.  What I have seen in my flesh is that the tiniest hurt, that I accept and allow to become part of my body, can do great damage.  How much more do the lies hurt our spiritual life?

So, what do we do?  As Christians we are encouraged to daily spiritual washing by reading scripture and seeking God in prayer.  Scripture fills our spirits with what we know to be truth.  Prayer helps us shed the lies that are currently trying to take root in our mind.

I would like to make an argument for more.   We need to actively pursue a deep cleaning of the heart.  A time of contemplation to see what part of us needs attention. A time to pursue spiritual regeneration through revelation.  A time of truly seeking out the “truths” in our lives that are still incomplete.  A time to push past our spiritual shell and step out in newness.

My physical body has required that I retreat from the routines of life for an extended period of time.  I have had time to observe my spirit and the changes that are occurring there.  I am witnessing a deep change and daily, I wonder if I would have taken the time to become this new creation without the cancer’s intervention. So I encourage you, if your body is strong, make a choice for spiritual retreat.  Plan a spa day of the heart.  Be cleansed and take time to push out of your shell.  For we are all becoming new, we simply need to pause in order to observe the change.