June 10, 2013

Being Shaped, Not Defined

This...
Not this.

When something bad or unwanted happens in my life, my first instinct is to let it affect me.

It saddens me. Angers me. Makes me question...a lot. Lowers my self-esteem. Makes me consider life and what I really want from it. 

Natural, right?

But there's another way I let unpleasant experiences affect me.

They often begin to define me.

As in, I begin to take on an identity, one I was never meant to take on.

Like the time all of my school friends in seventh grade decided to stop being my friends, for no reason.

Because of that, for years, I took on the identity of unpopular. Unlikable. Unwanted.

It made me strive harder for everything. I threw myself into the things I knew I did well, like school. And slowly, THAT became my identity.

If you'd looked up "Lindsay" in my own private dictionary, it would say:

1. Unpopular, unlikable, unwanted.
2. Smart girl.

Then, in high school and college, I went through something horrible. My mom had cancer for four years, and when I was 19, she passed away from it. My definition of myself grew.

3. Girl to be pitied.
4. Doubter of the faith she's always known; shameful.

Recently, I didn't do as well as I wanted in a writing contest. Now remember definition 2? Smart girl? Girl who didn't struggle with school? Girl who strove to be the best because that's the definition she could control?

Yeah. Since I became a writer pursuing publication, my own personal definitions for myself have gone wonky.

And that is a very, very good thing.

Because I CAN'T be defined by an experience, or two, or three.

But we do it to ourselves ALL. THE. TIME.

What if, instead of allowing ourselves to be defined by our circumstances, we simply allowed ourselves to be shaped by them? To let ourselves learn from them, grow closer to our Lord because of them? Become more like Jesus because of them?

What if, instead, we found our identity -- our definition -- in something that would never change?

What if, instead, I erased the personal definition of myself and replaced it? 

1. Child of God.
2. Beloved.
3. Always and forever His, no matter what I do or don't do, no matter how I succeed or fail.

Your Turn: I know I've talked a lot about labels and identity this year, and that's because I'm learning myself what it means to find my identity in God. It's a long road, and I'm so blessed to have all of you travel it with me. Do you relate to this at all? How do you remind yourself to find your definition in who you are in Him?

7 comments:

  1. Lindsay, this is so, so good. I love how you share your heart with us. And I love the distinction between being defined and being shaped. How do I remind myself to find my definition in Christ...um, well, I recently wrote a book with that as the theme. Haha! But seriously, that really is the spiritual thread running through MTL and it was hugely impacting to me as I wrote. I remember so specifically one day, sitting at my desk, working on a scene and suddenly realizing, "I think maybe I'm writing this for me." :)

    Love ya, friend!

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  2. Very much relate. I've found it's easier to get all mixed up about this stuff when I'm keeping myself too busy, too distracted.

    It's unexpected places, moments, people, quotes, etc. that bring me back to the truth. This post was a great reminder!

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  3. Beautiful. I struggled with this so much in my twenties. I still do to some extent. I think the thing that has changed is that I no longer feel like I have something to prove--not because I've achieved everything I want to achieve but I've learned to accept myself where I am.

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  4. You can never talk too much about what we need to do with the labels we allow the world, and even ourselves, to place on us. Great words of insight, Lindsay. Some days, I let those labels stick and it makes it harder to breathe. When I allow God to peel them back, I'm reminded of His manufacturer's stamp on my very soul: "Redeemed." Thanks for your beautiful words today, my Friend.

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  5. This so true, Lindsay. For years I struggled calling myself an artist. I never felt like I earned it until one day I finally felt I was an artist: I'd sold my work, took commissions, and had shows. ARTIST!! Then I struggled with calling myself a writer...

    But one thing I should've felt most comfortable identifying myself with was Child of God. I, too, struggled with that one! I'm grateful for your transparency. It's good to know we all have struggled once and awhile. A good reminder!

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  6. So good - thanks for sharing - Hey all my friend started hating me in 7th grade for no reason too. (and in 5th) Pre-teen/early teen girls can just be mean - I wonder if there is a way for my daughter to skip those years ;)

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  7. Thank you all for your responses. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in this. I needed the reminder myself. Go God! :)

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