Who Determines Your Identity?
by Kelly Givens , crosswalk.com
One year, in between jobs, I worked as a temporary administrative assistant at a financial planning firm… during tax season. It was as challenging as you might imagine. I had no experience in taxes but suddenly found myself surrounded by tax forms, calculators and clients who expected me to have the answers to all of their tax issues. I might as well have been in a foreign country trying to communicate in a language I barely understood.
I started with grand ambitions: I told myself that I would learn all about taxes; I took an incredibly challenging online tax course, learned a ton about deductions and exemptions, and strove to be cheerful and helpful to my colleagues and our clients. Things were going great – I was exhausted but felt helpful, felt like my boss appreciated me and thought my coworkers were glad to have me around. Until the worst imaginable thing happened.
A customer claimed to have dropped off his taxes to be done, but his paperwork was nowhere to be found. All of the most important documents he owned and had trusted to us had somehow vanished. Worst of all, I had been the person handling the coming and going of most of the client’s paperwork the day it went missing, so the blame fell on me.
I was nauseous with anxiety. I felt the cold condemnation of my coworkers as they repeatedly asked me what I had done with this man’s documents. All I could say over and over was, “I don’t know. I don’t remember taking his paperwork. I am so sorry.” I listened as they whispered accusations behind my back. I felt them watching me like a hawk, seeing if I would make any more careless mistakes. Worst of all, my boss was totally stressed out and I felt the weight of everything on me.
I went home that night and cried my eyes out. I prayed fervently that God would somehow miraculously make the documents appear. I prayed for the strength I needed to face work the next day. I truly felt as David did in Psalms 55 when he prayed,
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
Oh, that I had wings of a dove!
I would flee far away and stay in the desert.
All I wanted was to run away and never face my coworkers again. And I couldn’t even think about what the client would say when he found out that all of his tax information was gone.
My husband and I went to Bible study that night, and together our small group prayed over the situation, prayed that the missing documents would be recovered, and prayed for my peace. One person’s prayer in particular stuck out to me:
Father, I pray that Kelly knows her identity is not in what she does or doesn’t do, but in what you have done for her. I pray she knows that no amount of mistakes could make her any less your daughter.
Those words were a balm to my wounded spirit. I pictured Jesus holding me, reminding me of his great love for me and that even though I had messed up, my mistakes didn’t define me, he did.
I am a daughter of the King. Being reminded that my identity rests not in my success but in Christ’s sacrifice gave me the courage I needed to face another work day. I realized I had been finding my identity in what other people thought of me and in a job well done, instead of resting in the knowledge that no matter what, I am a beloved, redeemed child of God.
The next day at work, the missing files were found. The client had dropped them off in our overnight drop-off box, and the documents were wedged at the top of the chute. While having my name cleared was a relief, I look back and am more thankful for the lesson God taught me. When it comes to my identity, it’s not what I do or don’t do that defines me, it’s what Christ has done for me.
“He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me.” –Psalm 55:18
Streams in the Desert – September 30
- 202130 Sep
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him” (Deut. 32:11-12).
Our Almighty Parent delights to conduct the tender nestlings of His care to the very edge of the precipice, and even to thrust them off into the steeps of air, that they may learn their possession of unrealized power of flight, to be forever a luxury; and if, in the attempt, they be exposed to unwonted peril, He is prepared to swoop beneath them, and to bear them upward on His mighty pinions. When God brings any of His children into a position of unparalleled difficulty, they may always count upon Him to deliver them.
–The Song of Victory
“When God puts a burden upon you He puts His own arm underneath.”
There is a little plant, small and stunted, growing under the shade of a broad-spreading oak; and this little plant values the shade which covers it, and greatly does it esteem the quiet rest which its noble friend affords. But a blessing is designed for this little plant.
Once upon a time there comes along the woodman, and with his sharp axe he fells the oak. The plant weeps and cries, “My shelter is departed; every rough wind will blow upon me, and every storm will seek to uproot me!”
“No, no,” saith the angel of that flower; “now will the sun get at thee; now will the shower fall on thee in more copious abundance than before; now thy stunted form shall spring up into loveliness, and thy flower, which could never have expanded itself to perfection shall now laugh in the sunshine, and men shall say, ‘How greatly hath that plant increased! How glorious hath become its beauty, through the removal of that which was its shade and its delight!'”
See you not, then, that God may take away your comforts and your privileges, to make you the better Christians? Why, the Lord always trains His soldiers, not by letting them lie on feather-beds, but by turning them out, and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long march with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. This is the way in which He makes them soldiers–not by dressing them up in fine uniforms, to swagger at the barrack gates, and to be fine gentlemen in the eyes of the loungers in the park. God knows that soldiers are only to be made in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. We may grow the stuff of which soldiers are made; but warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades, not in soft and peaceful times.
Well, Christian, may not this account for it all? Is not thy Lord bringing out thy graces and making them grow? Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every appliance to come off conqueror?
Psalms 22:1, 16, 18 1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
16Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
18They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
One thousand years before Jesus was born, the shepherd king David wrote this prophetic song. We don’t know the details surrounding it. Was he going through some similar circumstance, such as the attempt to murder him by King Saul? Or was he lying on the grass while watching his sheep when the Spirit of God came upon him and he began to sing this song? We can only guess.
What we do know is that a millennium in the future, Jesus would be nailed to a Roman cross and begin to quote this psalm so full of the details of that moment. If God could inspire a shepherd to pen the details of that horrible moment, then surely God is sovereign over it. Though Jesus did not sense God’s presence, He did have His Word in His heart that assured Him that the Father knew exactly what was happening and what would happen.
God had forsaken Jesus because the sin of the world was placed upon Him. The Father is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13). Jesus knew the answer, but the psalm was voiced for us. Dogs were the term that the Jews used for Gentiles. In typical Hebrew style David repeated the expression in different terms, “a band of evil men.” The Roman Gentile soldiers surrounded the scene. Crucifixion, in which the hands and feet were pierced, was invented shortly before Jesus was born. This prophetic word was truly a glimpse into the future.
Clothing in the first century was very expensive. Many people had only one main robe and a cloak for colder weather. Jesus robe was made of one solid weaving and therefore even more valuable. The soldiers divided up the smaller articles of clothing, but to keep the value intact, they decided not to divide the robe. Instead they put each of their names on a stone, put the stones in a jar, and shook the jar until one stone fell out. The person whose name was on that stone won the robe, not knowing that he had just fulfilled the words of an ancient prophecy.
Consider: If God knows the details of every trial His children endure, we can trust Him to see us through trials and into a greater victory than we can imagine, just as He did with His only begotten Son. Trust Him! He knows your future.
God is Enough
Scripture Reading — Luke 23:44-46
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. — Psalm 73:25
Sometimes there is too much wrong in this world! The economy takes your job. Cancer takes your spouse. The river takes your home. Yet even when so much is wrong, God is enough.
But some people skate through life. They seem to have no troubles at all. Their kids run faster. Their jobs pay better. Their dreams shine brighter. And they act like they deserve it, but they don’t. It’s just wrong! Yet even when so much is wrong, God is enough.
It helps to remember Jesus: accused by his own people, abandoned by his closest friends, stripped naked and nailed to a cross. It was all so wrong! So wrong that the sun quit shining and Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34). Yet even then, God was enough.
Psalm 73 is a long prayer about how there is too much wrong in this world. It’s a complaint, until the psalmist gains a new perspective. Then the prayer takes a turn: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” In other words, even when so much is wrong, God, you are enough.
At the end of his rope, Jesus releases himself to God: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Because even when so much is wrong, God is enough.
Lord God, whom do I have in heaven but you? And besides you, there is nothing on earth I desire. Let that be my prayer, because you are enough. Amen.