Have you ever had a dream where you realize you are standing in front of a group of people and find yourself unexpectedly without any clothes on except your underwear? This is one of the most humiliating dreams I have ever had and thankfully it has only been a dream, or maybe a nightmare. From what I understand it is a similar dream that many others have experienced.
Thankfully I have never had this happen in real life. But I have lived the past three years in a world where I have been “stripped” of all the identity I have ever
known ....except my identity in Christ.
For thirteen years I served alongside my husband in various capacities as a church planter/pastor’s wife. I filled various positions-some of which I loved and was “called to” and others just because they needed a warm body or there was no one else to do the job. I worked as a nurse full time until we started our family and then worked part time. Last and definitely not least, the most important title I held and continue to hold is the mother of our five children. I found my identity in all of these things along with other hats that I wore: Community Bible study leader, mentor to college aged young women, Crisis Pregnancy Center counselor and homeschool mom. For the most part I loved being a pastor’s wife with the exception of every Sunday morning trying to get our four small children dressed, fed and out the door in time for church each Sunday all by myself. I loved being a nurse and caring for people in such a vulnerable state. I enjoyed being patients’ advocate and ministering not only to them but also to their families during times of pain and distress. I had four children in 4 1/2 years and loved and continue to love being their Mom (Kid #5 just blessed us with his presence recently). My days were sometimes long and exhausting and I longed for a hot shower and a few moments to myself. My days were spent watching Sesame Street, Thomas the Train, reading books, homeschooling, changing diapers, nursing, potty training, picking up toys, mountains of laundry and trying to prepare nutritious meals and keep my kids healthy. I began homeschooling when our first born reached kindergarten age and continued to teach all four of them for a total of five years. I enjoyed the satisfaction of teaching a child to read (although there were days we were both in tears) and seeing them figure out how to solve math problems.
Then....all of a sudden.....at the age of 37...God spoke to us in such a clear and crazy way and my world was turned upside down. God had put a “Holy discontentment” in my husband’s heart a few years before this and we began to pray about what the Lord really wanted from our family. Little did we know that this would send us to the other side of the world, working in a country that is 99.9% Muslim. This was not on our radar and not exactly what we thought the plan would entail. But, as we prayed and fasted to seek the Father’s will for our family, it was clear and the choice to stay where we were would have been disobedience to the Father and this was not a place we were willing to be.
So, we began to follow through with a plan that the Father had already set in full motion. Everything happened so quickly and before we knew it we had sold our house, everything we owned and moved our family of six to a country in Central Asia. While the whole thing felt crazy and we were heart broken to leave our families behind, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the right thing to do and felt a tremendous peace as we stepped out into the great unknown.
So, here we are today....three years later. I wish I could say that it has been easy and everything has worked out perfectly and that we have never looked back and doubted this decision. But I can’t. I can’t say that it has been easy and everything has gone perfectly, because it hasn’t. I can’t say that we and our children adjusted easily to life here, because we didn’t. I can’t say that if you step out into the Father’s will for your life that it will be a bed of roses and problem free, because it isn’t. I can’t say that if you are in the center of God’s will for your life then you will be happy because the truth is at times we haven’t. But, I can tell you this, the center of the Lord’s will is the exact place we have determined that we want to stay. We have looked back and seen the heartbreak our family and our children have experienced because of this decision. However, at the same time we have experienced the Lord in ways we never would have experienced Him had we not stepped out. We understand His Word in a fresh and deeper way than we did before. We often looked back, and still do at times, and think that life was so much easier and we were so much more effective in ministry back in the states. But then we sit and ponder what our lives would be like had we stayed and we realize that maybe the Lord brought us here to do something more in us instead of us helping to change the lives of those around us. However at times, there is a glimpse of our purpose here as we realize that our family has a great “Light” that little by little is pushing back the heavy darkness that is all around us.
So, what does this all have to do with standing in front of a group of people in my underwear? I use that illustration because most of the time, on a daily basis, we are confronted with the reality that we are nothing. We have been stripped of everything that we knew back in the states and are constantly reminded of how much we need the Father. We sound at best like a struggling kindergarten when we talk and this is only a slight improvement from sounding like a toddler or Tarzan when we speak. We have both come out of careers and places that we felt like we made a difference and were appreciated, to feeling like we are no longer good at anything. I feel as if I have been stripped of everything that made sense to me. I no longer hold any titles or accolades. I no longer can say that I was a pastor’s wife, a nurse or a homeschool mom. I became a language learner, and a terrible one at that, and spent my days trying to find patient people that I could sit and talk with in the hopes of trying to express some granule of Truth at the same time. I was, of course, still a mom, but sent all four of my children into the world in a different language and a different culture so I could dive deep into culture and language. I continue to have days where I ask the Lord if He was sure that He made the right decision in calling us here. I know there are many other people that would be more suitable and better for this job than I am. I never knew that while I am learning how to be humble that at the same time I often feel humiliated by my inept abilities in language and life here.
But there is one truth I hold on to and cherish. I can only find my true identity and worth in Jesus Christ. We all know this to be true and can even recite verses to back up these words. But when we have been “stripped” of all we are and stand before our Creator He sees us for who we really are, while at the same time, as painful as it may be, helps us to truly see ourselves. I am His daughter, a daughter of the King. I am forgiven and loved with an extravagant love. I am beautiful and wonderfully created. I am a vessel that He can use and fill up with His Spirit and then be poured out for others, whether it’s my family, my church, friends or people of an entire different culture and language. At the same time I AM NOTHING!! I am nothing of myself, but only what He has created me to be. I am nothing to those in my home and outside my walls when I am not allowing the Spirit to work through me.
So....I urge you, no matter the season of life you are in, to rest and find your identity in Christ. Stop trying to figure it out and striving to be something that you aren’t or thought you might be. Don’t worry if you don’t measure up and at times may even look like a fool in front of others because of what you do or are trying to do.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where thieves can steal our identity and use who we are against us and for their own profit. Our greatest enemy can also try to steal our identity and have us convinced that we are not who we really are. If Satan can convince us that we aren’t worth anything and the work we are doing is insignificant then he can defeat us and what the Father wants to do through us. One of his greatest weapons is to steal away the truth about who we are in Christ. Don’t let him steal your identity.
We often remind our children when they are going to spend the night somewhere or to an event, “remember whose you are”. How easily we forget this!! We forget WHOSE we are!!! So, I encourage you sisters, remember who you are in Christ. Stop comparing yourself to all those around you. Stop looking at all the things you are terrible at or can no longer do and focus on the things that the Father has for you in this season. Embrace who you are in this moment and ask the Father to help you to be all that He wants you to be.
Where am I now? As we approach the three year mark I can honestly say that I am enjoying my life here more and more. I am finding my identity here more each day and realizing more of why I am here. There are still hard days and I miss my family in America terribly at times. There are still days when I wonder what it would be like if I was still a nurse and seemed “smart”. However, we are persevering!! We are still limping along learning this language but are encouraged by how far we have come. We have friends and fellow believers here with whom we meet together and read our Book and unveil Truth. We have close friends that we love dearly and desire that they know the Father. We are finding more and more things each day that bring us real joy in this culture. We are learning how to do life in a small community of believers and hold each other accountable in deep and personal ways. We are trying to be faithful in the small things that He calls us to each day!! We made it through the birth of our surprise fifth baby (after eight years of saying that we were finished) in another country and are in a new season of trying to balance everything. It is hard and exhausting most days!! But this one thing is true....God is FAITHFUL, and He will give us what we need to do His work even when we feel we are failing miserably. He knows what He is doing......
so....remember WHOSE you are and WHO you are in Christ!!!