In case we haven’t met, hi, I’m Caitlin.
And I’ve spent most of my life without a clue about who I am.
I know…that sounds a little ridiculous. I’m 31 years old — how could I function in society without any idea about who I am? Not just my name or resume or nationality. I’m talking about that deep, internal sense of understanding of my identity. What drives me, what refuels me, what is deeply rooted in my very being. That sort of thing.
Actually, I believe this lack of understanding of who we really are is more of a wide-spread issue than it sounds. And not just for teenagers who are “finding their way.” Oh no, also for adults like me. But I’ll get into that later.
See, there are really only a couple things I’ve known without a doubt about myself:
First off, I’m stubborn. Painfully so. Sometimes for no good reason.
Don’t let the big blue eyes and polite smile dissuade you. If there is something I’ve set my mind to, I can’t let it go until I try it.
Second, I’ve got an innate rebellious streak. It pops up in odd places, like speaking my mind. And dreadlocks. And disliking anything to do with what is popular in society. What can I say…rocking the boat entertains me.
So with only those two things in mind, you can bet I’ve always felt a little out of place. Especially in my faith and in church circles. Obviously, I didn’t fit the typical mold for the Christian woman.
So for years, I thought something was deeply, deeply wrong with me.
What the church taught me about identity.
Before I start, let me say: I love church. Good, Bible-teaching, community-focused church. Gathering for worship is great and so incredibly necessary (Hebrews 10:24-25).
But when it comes to identity, I always felt a little lost. I remember Sunday school teachers and youth pastors and senior pastors talking about finding your identity in Christ. Yet somehow, it always seemed to be a topic that was — at best — skimmed over. And in my 20+ church-going years, the concept never got clearer. Worse, was whatever picture the teachers and pastors and leaders were painting, I certainly wasn’t it.
I tried watching people to glean some wisdom on the topic. I watched some amazing examples of godly women serve in my churches. They were humble, knowledgeable in scripture, gifted and talented, compassionate and patient. Several of them were huge blessings in my life and I learned so much from them. Especially about how I WAS NOT like them.
While they listened to worship music non-stop, I listened to hard rock and metal. While they met around tea, I hung out while hiking or horseback riding. They had conversations about parenting and quilting and knitting, I talked motorcycles and knives and animal training… You get the idea. And all I could think was:
God, did You make me this way, or am I just that messed up?
What took me another decade to learn…
There are so many things that happened to help me understand my identity. But one thing in particular that started the chain-reaction actually wasn’t scriptural. It was a marketing book about personal branding.
The author — a branding specialist for CEO’s and start-up entrepreneurs alike — discussed the importance of individual unique qualities in one of the early chapters. It was like a veil was yanked from my face:
you mean everything about me that is weird or different is actually unique and important and shouldn’t be hidden?
My mind was blown. It was the first step in actually accepting my quirks and oddness AS A GOOD THING.
That was the open door. I’d like to take credit for moving forward, but in all reality, God was the one who launched me on a crazy-train of beginning to understand what the Bible says about unique design. I was challenged to stop believing lies I didn’t even know I was believing. I began accepting my personality quirks instead of feeling like I had to hide them to “fit in.” And I began to believe what Jesus was saying about who He made me to be — and the purpose He has set before me.
Where do you stand on this journey?
It is an incredibly important question to ask yourself. Because, dear friend, I believe the issue surrounding understanding our identities is a form of “spiritual amnesia.” That so many of us struggle with purpose, direction and even peace in our daily lives because we don’t understand who God made us to be.
Don’t get me wrong — we’re not changing our focus from Jesus to ourselves. We are aiming to understand His handiwork, aka our identity. Because if we don’t understand how He created us, we won’t believe the promises we read in scripture. And if we don’t believe those promises, how do we expect to stand strong in trials? To seek Him wholeheartedly, without guilt or shame? Or to fight against the devil — especially for lost souls?
It’s time we stand for who Jesus says we are — in our deepest, innermost being — and stand how we are meant to stand.