Who Do You Think You Are?

Another birthday came and went this week. As I do every year, I took some time to reflect on my life and the changes that have occurred. One particular milestone rolled by this year, so most of my thoughts were about that. Ten years ago this month was the first of the knee surgeries that brought about the cascade of pain and mobility issues that I’ve been dealing with ever since. That surgery was the beginning of a long journey that I thought would be physical, but has turned out to be much more spiritual.

Before that knee went bad, I was a different person. Physically, I was quite fit and very capable. I power walked for at least one hour every day, and could do pretty much anything I wanted to do. One of my favorite activities was thrift shopping with a friend. We could go to half a dozen thrift shops in a day. It was such fun to shop and browse, finding bargains and just enjoying the time together. Once the knee went bad, those days were over.

I was no longer a diehard thrift shopper.

Before the knee surgery, I was your go-to girl to help others. I brought meals, helped with cleaning, shopped for people, did chores around the church, and basically helped anyone who needed my help in any way they needed it. As the knee went bad, I could do fewer and fewer things to help others.

I was no longer the go-to helper.

I loved to work out. I did the treadmill, elliptical, or the bike for cardio and I loved core work and weight lifting. I did aerobics and other fitness classes, and sometimes coached others in their quest for fitness. It gave me great joy to encourage others, and I must admit I had a significant amount of pride in my fitness level. When the knee started to go, there were fewer and fewer things I could do, and I began to become depressed as I missed the endorphins of cardio and the proud feeling I had at the gym.

I was no longer the energetic fitness fanatic.

I could fill several pages with all the things I was before my “knee saga,” as I’ve come to call it, but I think you get my point by now. The botched knee surgery was definitely the beginning of huge changes in my physical capability, but it was more than that. It changed my identity. Over the course of my life, I had come to identify myself in certain ways. I was fit. I was capable. I was strong. Now, all that was taken away. I could barely walk, much less resume all the roles I’d created for myself. One of the most difficult things about the days and months of coming to grips with the fact that my life would never be the same was this identity problem.

When something like this happens to you, it brings your life to a screeching halt. Physical changes are not the only life-altering events. A woman’s husband dies, and suddenly she’s not a wife anymore. Who is she now? A mother loses her only child, and suddenly her identity as a mom is lost. A job change, a move to another town, a major family crisis—all these things can take who we thought we were and turn it on its head, so that we no longer match the identity we’ve developed.

A life-changing event like this forces a person to examine their identity. Who am I now? Who am I if I can’t be who I thought I was? A believer in this kind of trial will be forced to take a hard look at where she has rooted her identity. If she doesn’t line it up with Scripture, she risks depression, sorrow, and bitterness. This is exactly where I was as my “new normal” became clear to me. I found myself in a kind of limbo, realizing that I had grounded my sense of who I was in what I could do. When this became clear, I knew that I had to deconstruct the person I had built and start over. This time though, it wouldn’t be me doing the building.

I began to pray, asking the Lord to show me who I am in His sight. After all, the One who created me surely knows who I am. He began to reconstruct my identity by showing me who I am in Him. I am His child. I am redeemed, chosen before the foundation of the world, and destined to bring Him glory. When He looks at me, He sees Christ because my life is hidden with Him. I was created to bring Him glory, but I really didn’t know how to do that in this condition He had sovereignly ordained for me.

What I’ve learned in the months and years since that first surgery is that the condition of my body and the circumstances of my life will change many times, but the purpose for which I was created will never change. God would not give me a purpose and a command to fulfill it, without supplying me what I need to do so. The truth is, dear reader, we all have the same purpose. From the most devoted atheist to the sold-out believer, we were all created to glorify God and whether in this life or the next, we will all fulfill that purpose.

Perhaps your life has taken an abrupt turn and you find yourself spinning around, trying to figure out who you are now that you’re not who you were. If so, I have good news! The purpose of your life has not changed no matter how much your circumstances have. You were created to glorify God. How are you doing right now? I’d like you to mull over this question, and begin to pray about how the Lord might want to reconstruct your identity. In my next post, I’ll share my process of re-establishing my identity in Christ as I let go of my plan and began to embrace God’s.