Nuggets: What Do I Do Because of Who I Am?

“While walking by the sea, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.”

Yeah? So what?

… because they were fishermen … 

What do I do “because of who I am”? Because of what people believe about me or what I believe about myself? What do I do daily to meet expectations–others’ or my own? What do I do because I “have to” to make a living, to make someone happy, to keep the world spinning or because no one else will do it?

What do I do to maintain my identity? And will I leave it?

Will I leave it all behind to follow Jesus? Does He only have to invite me once? How many pleas must He utter? Can He simply say, “Follow me”?

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Names Have Been Changed to Identify the Righteous

“I love everything about her life!”

The barista’s comment startled me as I left Starbucks. I knew she was talking about me. We had just been giggling together, discussing our dogs and exchanging first names.

I almost turned around said, “No you don’t! You don’t know anything about my life!” But instead, I just smiled to myself and walked into the sunshine. I think I know what she loves about my life, it’s what she can see. I pray she can see that God has blessed me with joy and a peace beyond understanding.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to spot a girl across the room and wish to trade her places. I used to pray each night that God would just kill me because I didn’t want to do my life anymore. In the midst of a 15 year battle with anorexia and a troubled marriage, it seemed as if my life couldn’t get any worse. I even feared that my loved ones had given up on me after pouring thousands of dollars into my treatment, only to still see a starving, depressed woman.

Looking into my heart, I hated what I saw. I perceived my identity as intrinsically linked to my long list of failures.

Maybe Jacob did, too. The Biblical character of Genesis lived up to his given name, “Deceiver”. In fact, when God asked him in chapter 32, “What is your name?” Jacob was forced to reply, “I am Deceiver.”

At that point in Jacob’s life, he believed the end was near. In mere hours, he would be face-to-face with a man who once wanted to kill him. Already, Jacob had a long list of mistakes to feel guilty for. I wonder if Jacob hated who he had become.

But God is in the business of changing identities. Over and over throughout the Bible, when God did a massive work in someone’s life, He also changed their name, giving them a new identity, a new way to refer to themselves, a new way to see themselves and a new way to present themselves to the world.

For Jacob, God told him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”

Another definition of the name Israel is, “Prince of God”.

According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, our identity changes too, when we accept Jesus as our salvation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Isaiah 62 tells us that God changes our name to reflect the new identity that we receive when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for us and the gift of His righteousness to us.

“The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.”

As I sank into a chair on the patio at Starbucks, the sun’s afternoon rays painted my feet a soft yellow, then shadows encroached and swept me into the early evening hours. I smiled again. I love who I am. I love the one who gave me His identity in Christ, and I dearly love the name, Jesus.

26 Years Later, I Finally Get It

One of the pre-packed phrases, over used by well-meaning Christian counselors and other would-be encouragers is, “You have to see yourself as God sees you. Know who you are in Christ.”

I speak from experience. I can’t count how many times I was told to know who I was in Christ. Then, whoever it was would proceed to give me a print out of self-affirmations:

I am loved
I am beautiful
I am valuable
I am more than a conquerer
I am strong
I am joyful
I am…

“Now, everyday I want you to stand in front of the mirror and say these out loud to yourself until you believe them, until they sink into your habitual thought pattern.”

Not to sound flippant and ungrateful, but that didn’t work for me. I mean, to this day, even as a 26-year follower of Christ, the idea of being “in” Him seems esoteric. What on earth does that mean? Well, today, I think I got it! Take a look at these few verses from John 17. Jesus is praying to the Father for his disciples, for you and for me:

v.2-3 “For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is eternal life that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

v.26 “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This passage gets pretty confusing as Jesus talks repeatedly about us being in Him and Him being in us. So let me try to unpack as it began to make sense to me.

Not too many people know that a few years ago, while working for Barnes and Noble, I occasionally had to dress up as a children’s storybook character – Peter Rabbit for example. Hot and stuffy as it was in there, I can guarantee you, I was as IN Peter Rabbit as anyone will ever be.

From inside the costume, to unsuspecting kiddos, I was Peter Rabbit incarnate. My voice became his voice, all my movements were his movements. Every choice I made to sit or stand or touch one of them, or tell a story about my life, all of it was Peter Rabbit. He could do or say nothing apart from me.

That’s what it’s like with Christ in me. It’s not an on and off thing. He isn’t in me one moment and then a few days later I’m no longer filled with His Spirit. No, as a believer in Christ, every movement I make, every word, every touch, even every story of my life is His. He becomes me to this world.

But also, I am in Christ. What happens when I am inside something else?

From my perspective inside the costume, I am concealed within, protected by Peter Rabbit. No one can touch me, except they go through him. Also, every move of my hand is hindered by the size and shape of Peter Rabbit’s hand.

So also with Christ, as I am in Him no one on earth can touch me, but that my Savior intervenes. And, as I willingly stay safe within Him, He will indeed shape and filter and influence all that I do in the world.

Does any of that make sense?

So, let me take you a tiny bit deeper. If I am IN Christ, then even my Heavenly Father only sees me through the filter of Christ. And I see the Father, through the eyes of His Son, so that now I call Him, Abba Father.

Finally, how does this affect how I see myself? How do I begin to internalize the fact that I am concealed within and containing the Spirit of Christ? The rest of John 17 goes on and on, pressing us to KNOW God. Eternal life is to KNOW God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to make God known to us.

Perhaps, the only way to finally see myself correctly is to quit looking at myself and to quit looking at the list of things I should be. I need to start looking solely at Christ. Truthfully, if He is in me and I am in Him, then I cannot see my real self without looking at Jesus.

To know GOD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is to understand my own value – how and why and how much I am loved – IN HIM. Does this seem difficult?

STARE AT JESUS, IT’S WHY HE CAME.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”John 1:18

No More Strip Search

At Remuda, weigh-in day involved a strip search. Every fold of clothing, baggy sweatshirt or rubber soled shoe held potential. Girls at The Ranch were receiving treatment for eating disorders. And a girl with an eating disorder is nothing if not sneaky. I learned the tricks of the trade from more experienced friends.

Wear a water bra.
Drink tons of water within an hour of weigh-in.
Some had managed to hide books in the pockets of their hoodies.
Stuff your pockets.
Put sand in your shoes.

But the staff caught on, and hence forth, weigh-in day began with a strip search. Susan, the kindest nurse I remember, always turned her back while I undressed. When I was ready, she stepped close and slid the indicator down the bar. Did I mentioned that everyone weighed backwards? Some of us tried to count the clicks as the indicator slid.

Susan was sharp. She noticed the clench of a thigh, and if I tried to sneak a toe off the front edge of the platform. “Stand still.” After the traumatic, twice-weekly event, a small clump of nervous girls trudged back to our rooms to get dressed and then head to breakfast.

Before I got sick, I only vaguely knew my weight. Who cared? Occasionally, after swim team practice, I stepped on the scale and just as quickly forget the number.

When I left Remuda and progressed through aftercare, I terminated my relationship with the scale. I don’t own one. I refuse to look at them, staring straight ahead when I pass one in the gym locker room. Until yesterday, I couldn’t tell you within five pounds what I weighed. I only knew that my clothes still fit (and I think I look sexy). I can honestly tell you that I like my thighs, my stomach, my arms. I am proud of my strength. I can even knockout more than the minimum number of pull-ups for a female marine!

So what’s the big deal?

Yesterday, the nurse at the doctor’s office weighed me. There was no fanfare, no strip search, no one aware of my discomfort with the scale. Quite casually, she pointed in the direction of that frightful piece of equipment and turned her back to make notes. Hesitantly, I lined my toes up on the outline of a foot. I tried to stare straight ahead, but my eyes fell on the digital number when it beeped. Oh.

I weigh as much as I did before the eating disorder.

The shadow of belief that I am still skinny disappeared in the light of the glowing scale display. Normal. Is that OK? Am I ready to be normal? The naked truth is that I hadn’t realized that a sliver of my identity was still lodged in a belief that it’s better to be too thin that too fat, and that I was on the ‘good’ side.

Truthfully, I think I am ready. I didn’t do a crazy, compensatory workout this morning. I still enjoyed a beer with my husband last night. I have to admit, the new knowledge has continued to linger in my consciousness.

But, yes, I can handle the truth. I personally know the Creator of this good body and I trust Him to direct me in how to care for it and to show me what size He wants it to be.