Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (emphasis mine)
For a long time my value and self-worth was based on externals: if I was married, who I was married to, what I did, how well I did it and did anyone recognize my efforts. When I was not living my life for Christ but for self, being married was extremely important. I ended two long-term relationships because my partners were unwilling to marry; I entered into many brief, sexually intimate relationships in my desire to be wanted, to be valued. My romantic life was a cliché: “men play at love to get sex and women play at sex to get love”. Broken and used, my spirit longed for the love I had experienced as a child when I had put my trust in God. When I surrendered my life to Christ once again, God spoke into my aching heart: “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.1 Like the woman caught in the act of adultery, I was free to go and sin no more. And when God did bring a husband, a spiritual soul mate that He had chosen for me, well, surely this couldn’t be the man for me! A blue-collar worker with no money renting a bachelor apartment in someone else’s house – I didn’t think this was the man for me. But God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise so that no man can boast.2 The man who I would have disdained has been a steady rock of love and faithfulness that I never experienced in any other relationship. My work life is another area where I sought value. I remember being ashamed that I was “only” a receptionist and finding solace in my plans to become a registered nurse, to have a “career”. I distinctly recall my best friend telling me that a title wouldn’t bring me fulfillment but how could she understand – after all, she is a “somebody”, she is a crown attorney. When I graduated I was secretly petrified: the school didn’t realize a mistake was made! Then I passed my licensing exam: uh-oh, now I was expected to practice and no one had discovered that I really wasn’t good enough. I would feel not as skilled, or knowledgeable, or talented, or smart as the other nurses. And working in a remote nursing station on a First Nations reserve early in my career did not help. So maybe I could shine in Christian ministry! Surely my pastor would recognize the anointing of the Holy Spirit on my life and I would be mentored and move in mighty ways for God! Instead I remember being disappointed when someone spoke into my life that I was an intercessor. Really? An intercessor? That isn’t glamorous, that isn’t up front, that isn’t in the limelight. In my foolishness, I had no understanding or appreciation of the intimacy experienced with God during intercession. And then my pastor told me to “stop striving”. What on earth was he talking about? If I stopped striving, it would all fall apart. If I stopped trying, how could I be the person God wants me to be? It is so hard to be good: a good person, a good nurse, a good Christian, a good friend, a good church member, a good wife. If I didn’t strive, if I didn’t try … how could I be good?
You see, it isn’t the things I do that define me but rather it is who I am that defines me. This is what I didn’t understand and this is what God has taught me in all these situations. When I look for my value in the things that I do or the titles that I hold, I am inevitably – and ironically – vacillating between unnecessary shame and false pride. I am always weary. I am always afraid. I am never good enough. But when I look to God, He tells me that I am the righteousness of God in Christ. It doesn’t matter what I just did or did not do: I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I just am. I cannot lose that standing before God just the same as there was nothing I could do to gain it in the first place. In my weakness, I am strong. When I boast, I boast in Christ alone. When I work, I am at rest. In the midst of storms, I have a peace that passes all understanding. I am a daughter of the King of kings.3 This is my inheritance in Christ: grace, mercy and undeserved, unmerited favor. This is why Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”.4 At the start of this year, God showed me a vision of myself as His daughter; I was standing in His presence, wearing a flowing garment in pale shades of pink and blue, and gently swaying in worship and adoration before Him. I am His and He is mine. Then a sea of women surrounded me, my sisters in Christ, all moving and worshiping together in unison. Is your identity in something other than Christ? Does your story sound like mine? If so, I appeal to you today: lay down your heavy burdens and rest in your identity today.
- Romans 8:1
- 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
- 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 1:31; Philippians 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:15
- Matthew 11:28