Take Exit 31: Discoveries About Identity

Duck #45

I really want to know who Jesus is and I also really want to know who I am. I think that those are two very important things, because I think that identity is crucial to living. According to the dictionary app I have on my phone, the word identity means : who someone is; the name of a person; the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.

Who someone is.

I’m in this weird place, friends. It’s my last semester of college and because of that I’m trying to be fully present where I am, but also hope and prepare for the “what’s next?” segment of my life. As a 2nd semester senior, you hear a lot of “oh, how exciting!”, “are you ready to graduate?”, “enjoy this time!”, “plan for what’s a head”, “get ready!”, “relax!”–basically, you hear a lot. It’s awesome. It really is. When else am I going to be in a section of life that merits so many words to be poured into me constantly and consistently just because of the nature of the section of life that I’m in. I mean, I guess when I get married I’ll also be told a lot of things, but I don’t even have a boyfriend, so I won’t go there. ūüėõ My point is this: there’s a lot of words being thrown my way and it’s awesome, but it’s also very overwhelming.

Friends, readers, followers of my blog, you’ve gotten to know me over the past year. I’m a thinker, I’m a struggler, I’m a dreamer, I’m a lover, I’m curious. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve learned a lot about who I am, but I’ve also learned that I have a lot more to learn. I suppose I never thought I was done learning, but I thought I reached a point where I was cruising. You know, like when you’re taking a road trip and you really have to pay attention to the GPS, until it gets to the point where it tells you to stay on I-95 or I-40 for 80 miles or more. I thought I had at least 80 miles, but I don’t. My little GPS is telling me to change lanes, take exit 31 on the right, turn left at the light, and continue driving for another 3 miles before I have to make another turn.

So what does this have to do with identity and Jesus? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but that’s why I’m blogging. Haha. Because I’m sure that I’ll conclude something before I finish this post… ūüôā Let’s take a journey, shall we?

Learning about yourself is hard, is it not? It’s so good, but it’s so hard. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly trying to better yourself. You’re constantly trying to be the best version of yourself you can be and looking for affirmation in how well you perform or how well other people say you perform, but that’s exhausting. And quite frankly, I’m over it. But you see, that’s all I’ve known. I’m good at performing–really good at it. So, I don’t know how to not perform. I’d like to think that I’ve had glimpses and scenes and moments where my mask was off, my costume was on the rack, and I wasn’t reciting memorized lines. In fact, I know that’s happened. But when you’re not in the habit of being raw, when you’re not in the habit of speaking your mind, when you’re not in the habit of freedom, it’s really hard to try and be raw, speak your mind, and be free. That is, to do these things so freely, a type of freedom that you can’t foster or create.

I find my identity in my performance. And that’s hard for me to admit for several reasons.
1) Because I’ve blogged about it before
2) I feel like I should be over that by now
3) If I mess up my performance, I feel lost…

But here’s the thing, just because I¬†find my identity in my performance does not mean that my identity¬†is¬†my performance. My dictionary app said that identity is: who someone is; the name of a person. As a Christian, my identity is: daughter of God; righteous (2 Corinthians 6:18), co-heir with Christ; holy (Romans 8:17), ¬†beloved; redeemed (Ephesians 1:7). And you see, what I fail to remember is that the identity I’ve been given through Christ isn’t like the identity I’ve gained in the world–it can’t be stolen. If someone takes my Bible, I don’t have to go to the police and explain what happened, or tell the bank to cancel my debit and credit cards. The identity given to me by Jesus is permanent, it’s constant, it’s always.

Okay, awesome. Great! That all sounds wonderful, right? But why is it so hard to remember? Why is it so hard to grasp and believe? Well friends, I’m figuring that out. Because believe me, I get it, it’s not easy to own up to your identity, especially when the words “prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” seem more true than ever. But here’s what I think, and this may or may not be be true for you–it’s hard to understand our identity because it wasn’t ours from the start, it was given to us. And when we receive it, we latch onto the title because it’s beautiful. But as we learn about the title and what it means, we realize how much we don’t deserve it. So we question it, we doubt it, we don’t believe it. We latch on to the good and completely forget grace, we ignore the Giver. At least, that’s what I often do…
A.W. Tower said, “what comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Because Jesus died, took our sins, and in exchange gave us His righteousness, our identity became His. Y’all our identity¬†is Jesus. So, what comes to our minds when we think about our identity is the most important thing about us.

Jesus loves because He loves because He loves because He loves because He loves because that’s who He is.
I’m learning that. I’m learning about who He is and about who I am.

So, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, would you reveal yourself to me, to us? Would you show us Your character? Would you drive us to know You for the sake of knowing You and through that would you help me, us, to understand who we are?
<3Amen

The Dots

connect the dots

Duck #40
Last week my friend lost his water bottle. Stick. That’s the name of his water bottle. He bought a new one and named it Gene.

The definition of the word connection, according to Google is: “a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.” As humans, we’re wired for this definition. It’s in our DNA. Sometimes, it propels us forward. Sometimes it holds us back. And it always motivates us.

A week or two ago, I was thinking a lot about this word. Tonight, I’m doing the same.

Let’s take a journey. Into the wonderfully intricate and over analytical mind of Jayna Duckenfield.
So here’s the premise: Humans are wired for connection, like I stated before. Think about it. That’s why we name inanimate objects. It’s why my car’s name is Roofus, my water bottle’s name is Wade, and my pillow pet’s name is Turtle. By naming those objects we feel connected to them. It’s like we’re transmitting some of our life into/onto something that cannot have it. We own it. It belongs to us. (Not in a creeper, stalker type of way). In some sense, it gives our life purpose.

What?! Jayna! Are you saying that we live for naming our inanimate objects because if we don’t then our life is meaningless?!
No, dear reader, that’s not what I’m saying. Let’s go deeper, yes?

Okay, so we name inanimate objects. We like owning things and having things that belong to us, things that are connected to us. And remember, those things can’t talk back or relate to us. Let’s move on to people. We ask questions, we spend time with each other, we hug, we share stories, we laugh. Why? Because all of these things make us feel important, they make us feel validated, like we belong. And let’s face it, we all need to belong. Brene Brown, a social worker and well known ‘TED Talker,’ says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong…”¬†

All right, Jayna. I mean yeah, you’re right. My car has a name and I do love¬†hanging with my friends, but what’s your point?
Reader, reader, reader…I’ll get there. I always do, don’t I?

Recap:
Humans are wired for connection.
We (sometimes) name inanimate objects to feel connected
We (always) make connections with people to feel like we belong

What’s the common theme here?

It’s us. But not just that…it’s us doing things.¬†It’s me.It’s me doing things in order to constantly affirm my connection, to incessantly¬†assess my sense of belonging, to reassure that I have worth.

I’d like to generalize my next few thoughts, but I can’t because I can’t truly speak for anyone other than myself. I’m an earner. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ve probably gathered this. I try really hard to understand and give reasoning to the things that I have. Grades, friendships, awards, looks, compliments…everything. It’s often really hard for me to take things for what they are without trying to find the root behind it all. So, when it comes to making connections, I can’t just allow them to be. I’ve got to search for them, go after them, capture them, manipulate them, stick them in a jar, feed them, give them water, and incessantly check them to make sure they don’t die or fade. And if I’m not doing that, then I immediately begin to question the strength of the connection. Because once the connection is made, sometimes I don’t trust it. I can know the strength of the connection, I can understand the depth of it, but if I’m not monitoring it daily, is it even really there? If other people can’t see me working on the connection, does it truly exist? If I can’t do anything to earn it’s strength, did the connection even happen in the first place?

And here’s what’s really behind all of this: There’s one connection that was made that has and will withstand the test of time. There’s one connection that is stronger, deeper, brighter, and more beautiful than any other connection that has ever been made by me or anyone else. It was the connection that was made when Jesus died on the cross. The connection of love that was made, was a connection that gives me life, joy, hope, purpose… And you see, the beautiful thing about this particular connection is that I didn’t have anything to do with it. Because really, my overly zealous attentiveness to my connections is often what weakens them.

I’m treating my connections like a rubber band. It’s sturdy, yes (to an extent), and meant to stretch. But if I keep testing it, making sure that it still has elasticity, pulling and probing, it will eventually pop. I’m treating my connection through Christ like a rubber band. I think that the connection He made for me on the cross was pretty good and overall is able to help me out and hold things together, but I don’t think it’s quite strong enough, so I’ve gotta add some stuff to it. And by add some stuff too it, I mean remove the rubber band and replace it with my fragile piece of thread. I take my¬†thread and wrap, and wrap, and wrap it around so many aspects of my life until it’s all gone. But because it’s so fragile, so thin, it’s still not enough. And I’ve removed Christ’s rubber band, so now what?

PLOST TWIST.  

There was never a rubber band to begin with!! The connection that Christ made for me on the cross is the tightest and strongest chain. It can’t be cut, it can’t be removed, it can’t be weakened. So it’s kind of funny that I try to remove it and make my own¬†convoluted connection, isn’t it?

Hmmmm…so what exactly ARE you saying, Jayna? Are the connections you and I make bad? Should we only be concerned with the connection Christ made?
Okay, reader. Here we go…

Connections are a good thing. Jesus wants us to have connections. He delights in them. BUT they are not to replace, overpower, or mitigate HIS connection. The connection He made is one of everlasting love, it’s one of new life, it’s one full of meaning. It’s the connection that reminds us that life is worth living. It’s the connection that saved us from the pit of hell and said “No, you’re mine! I want you with me.” It’s the connection that that paid for our sanctified perfection. It’s the connection that gave me a new identity and replaced my label of earner with rewarded.¬†It’s the connection that knows me so deeply and chooses to love me anyway. It’s the connection that affirms me and whispers, “You rest. I’ve got this.” It’s THE connection.

So, Jayna. Stop trying to earn and manipulate these connections then. The human connections you make can and should point you to and remind you of the¬†ultimate connection through Christ. Rejoice that you don’t have to earn that. Rejoice that you don’t have to worry about its strength. Rejoice because everything that THE¬†connection holds, in all of its beauty, is 100% yours. Rest in the fact that you can’t break it because you didn’t make it.

Thanks, reader. You’re exactly right.

[Jesus, thank You so much for the connections You allows us to make on earth. Thank you for the ways that you allows us to feel connected. But ultimately, thank You for the connection that You made and thank You for being so patient as I slowly but surely lean into that.]
‚̧ Amen