My first husband died three years ago, and within 36 months I went from living the American dream to becoming a widow and single mom of two preschoolers, and then a second wife and step mom.
When the man I worked so hard to become “one” with died in a head-on collision, he took half of me with him—that part with the innocent, fresh face that had known no real tragedy. He was my first love, the one who ran through a very deep vein that beat continuously to my heart. At the time of his death, I often wondered what parts of me would survive. My title wasn’t the only thing that suffered an identity crisis—my soul did, too.
As the only parent of two very young children, I played the role of both father and mother—disciplinarian and comforter, provider and nurturer, sender and keeper. I couldn’t settle into my natural role, even though I fiercely wanted to. I was continually grieved by my inability to fill the gaps in my children’s lives. God never intended it to be that way. He made parenting a two-person job for a reason.
As a second wife and step mom, I discovered everything I knew from my previous marriage proved, in a relationship sense, to be worthless. I married a new man with a different personality and his children are in different life stages than my own, which meant I had to start all over learning about marriage and family life. All the wisdom, knowledge, and experience I gained in my previous life is as useful as learning Spanish and moving to Germany. The old rules of communication, interaction, and tradition are different now. There is no such thing as “this is the way I did it before.” That’s all gone, and why shouldn’t it be? He’s a different man. And I’m a different woman.
I thought a new stable life would help me feel “normal” again. But as with all good marriages, the first year has been filled with molding and shaping. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but no. As a people-pleaser by nature, I kept evaluating, What pleases my spouse? What pleases the children? What pleases me? There was no way to be all things to all people, especially in such a complicated situation. I felt as though I were failing everyone all the time. Yet I was who I was—failures, broken past, differences of thinking, expectations. I had nothing more to offer.
In my soul, I cried out, “Oh God, I’m lost! Come and find me!” Like a bleating sheep who had wandered off, I pleaded for the Shepherd to come for me, and I knew he would. He promised in Matthew 18:12, “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off?”
Then one Sunday morning, my rescue came in the form of the worship song “The Stand,” by Hillsong. “What can I say? What can I do?” I sang, “But offer this heart, oh God, completely to you.” The Shepherd was reminding me it didn’t matter who I was. What matters is who he is, living in me.
Solving my identity crisis was the wrong motivation. I needed to empty myself and simply receive all Christ pours out. Through the mercy and the penetrating blood of Jesus, I don’t have to work for anyone’s favor because I already have the favor of God! All I have to do is live in his grace, feasting on his Word and drinking in his mercy. When I stop trying to find satisfaction in earthly relationships, and receive from God this way, he fills my cup to overflowing, and it spills over and pours out covering my marriage, my children, and all other relationships in my life.
So, who am I? Well, I’m a jumbled-up mess of a person who is still figuring out how this new life of mine works. Instead, let me tell you who I am in Christ:
I am free
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
I am free from worry, burdens, guilt; free from the shackles of sin and the death my sins deserve. But I’m not just free from, I am also free to. I’m free to be lighthearted, hope-filled, and encouraged. And I am free to represent the Lord, despite (and even because of) my imperfections.
I am forgiven
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
I no longer have to carry guilt for my sin or fear God’s wrath. Even when men and women hold a grudge against me, my record before God stands clear.
I am an overcomer
We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
No matter what battles I may face, God has given me the power to conquer them and come out on the other side with riches far better than anything of earthly value. The treasures God offers never rust or fade, and they never go out of style or lose their luster—love, joy, peace, wisdom, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.
I am created for a purpose
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
God created me specifically for a task, not just to sit around complaining about my sorrows and woes. And he planned my role in his kingdom before I was born! I’m not just another nameless face in the masses. No, he fashioned a custom-made plan for my life, including work that matters to the kingdom. Even despite my shortcomings and fears, God uses me.
I am a work in progress
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Very few verses have comforted me like this one has in the last three years. I painted it on a canvas and it hangs in my kitchen to remind me, when I get discouraged, that there is still more miracles to come. In the quest for finding who I am now, I somehow forgot that the answer to that question is an ever-changing one.
God isn’t finished defining who I am. I’m not going to know fully whom God created me to be until I get to the end of my journey. That’s what the apostle John so beautifully expresses in his letter: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
So my job is easy. All I really have to do is obey the word of the Lord from a heart of love and watch Him bring about the fruit of that labor, keeping my eyes not on myself, but on Him.
Copyright 2014 by Sabrina McDonald. Used with permission.