Before I Was Myself

Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me.

“Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.” ― John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You 

No way of knowing who we were. Wow, that quote grabbed me. You see, I was raised by very wounded parents who were unable to reflect my emotions. And for most of my life I have been a blank. Not knowing who I was, even what I like, what I wanted, except to make sure everyone else had what they wanted. I never had a “look” or a “style” except to remain as invisible as possible. My ambitions were manufactured to please someone else. I didn’t even know what color my eyes really were until I was 40 years old and I attended a “find your fashion color palette” class. They looked at me and said, “you have green eyes.” What!? I had been told they were brown, and as I tried not to look at myself too much in the mirror, I thought they were brown.  

Around that time, I was at a weekend, overnight conference and in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom. Halfway across the dark hotel room I was rooted to the spot when I heard very clearly, deep in my spirit, God say to me, “You are mine.” It was the beginning of identity. Of course, in my messed-up state, I thought God meant that I was his servant and I needed to DO something. I frantically started searching around for that something. It is true that we have good works which God has “prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10),” but now looking back over 30 years later, I am beginning to see that that is not what God meant as he confronted his green-eyed daughter that night.  

Then the other day I read this wonderful poem by a fellow blogger: 

In HIM Redeemed 

Volumes of silence, powerful prayer 

From love filled praise, or deep despair 

Tangible faith, Father hears our heart 

Lifted belief, His love from the start 

No anonymity, from the bended knee 

He’s waited for our prayer to be 

Surrendered and lost, no longer bound 

Prayer by faith, in Him we’re found 

— Sisylala1 

There is no anonymity when I seek to know my Father. There is no being unrecognized or unseen. There is no being invisible – he looks me in the eye and knows who I am. Though surrendered and seemingly lost, in him my real identity is found. Not by wonderful things I have done. Not by what a “good girl” I have been. But rather by my-heart-to-his-heart knowing. My yearning for him reflected in his yearning for me. Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me. Astounding!  

Charles Spurgeon said it well: 

“If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, if he had not given his whole heart to me, I am sure he would have turned from me long ago. He knew what I would be, and he has had long time enough to consider of it; but I am his choice, and there is an end of it; and unworthy as I am, it is not mine to grumble, if he is but contented with me. But he is contented with me—he must be contented with me—for he has known me long enough to know my faults. He knew me before I knew myself; yea, he knew me before I was myself.” — Charles Spurgeon, The Incarnation and Birth of Christ, December 23, 1855 

Oh, my sweet Father God, you knew me before I was myself. You made me who I am. You made me to belong to you. Thank you for your amazing knowing and loving! Eye-to-eye, face-to-face, heart-to-heart, I am yours and you are mine (!) 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, feeble, weak), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 

But you, O LORD, know me; you see me … Jeremiah 12:3 (ESV) 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” … Jeremiah 1:5 

My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Song of Solomon 2:16 

1https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2022/12/21/in-him-redeemed/  (emphasis mine)

Photo free to use from Pexels, Man Carrying Baby Drawing Their Foreheads, by Josh Willink 

Incognito

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” — C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of incognito: with one’s identity concealed.  

Synonyms for incognito: 

anonymous,    

faceless,   

innominate,  

nameless,  

unbaptized,  

unchristened,  

unidentified,    

unnamed,    

untitled 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 

Image by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

Who is This?

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.” Isaiah 63:1 

“Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:25 

“Who is this who even forgives sins?” Luke 7:49 

Who is this King of glory? Psalm 24:10 (ESV) 

“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5 

I AM WHO I AM … The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob … This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.  Exodus 3:14-15 

I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.” Isaiah 41:4 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 

I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! Revelation 1:18 

I AM WHO I AM

I am the bread of life. John 6:35 

I am the light of the world. John 8:12 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 

I am the good shepherd. John 10:11 

I am the resurrection and the life. John 11:25 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 

I am the true vine. John 15:1 

Who is the LORD, that I should obey him? 

Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah Psalm 24:10 (ESV) 

Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:9 

Photo by Ivan Radic, Close-up of a massive cemetery gate locked with a chain https://flic.kr/p/2kPco5i

Who Am I?

Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me.

Who Am I? (a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) 

 Who am I? They often tell me 

 I stepped from my cell’s confinement 

 Calmly, cheerfully, firmly, 

 Like a Squire from his country house. 

Who am I? They often tell me 

 I used to speak to my warders 

 Freely and friendly and clearly, 

 As though it were mine to command. 

Who am I? They also tell me 

 I bore the days of misfortune 

 Equably, smilingly, proudly, 

 like one accustomed to win. 

Am I then really that which other men tell of? 

 Or am I only what I myself know of myself? 

 Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, 

 Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, 

 Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, 

 Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, 

 Tossing in expectations of great events, 

 Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, 

 Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, 

 Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all. 

Who am I? This or the other? 

 Am I one person today and tomorrow another? 

 Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, 

 And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling? 

 Or is something within me still like a beaten army 

 Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved? 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. 

 Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine! 

This is the most beautiful poem about self-doubt that I have ever read. Written in his jail cell, it was one of the last Bonhoeffer wrote before his execution by the Nazis for his ties to the July 20, 1944 conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me. I cry out together with him. How many times have I found myself holding down contempt, prejudice, judgement, anger with one hand and blessing with the other? How many times am I harboring fear, hopelessness, even despair in my heart, but praising God with my mouth?  People say, “Oh what a wonderful person!” But I know the truth. 

Isn’t this what Paul meant when he cried out “what a wretched man I am!”? 

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25 

Yes! Thanks be to God, He has delivered me from my self through Jesus Christ my Lord! I know (at least in my head I know, but it is working its way down into my heart!) that I am not part of the “beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved”- the victory achieved by our Lord on the Cross. I know, along with Bonhoeffer, to whom I belong. 

Yes, I know the truth about what is in my heart, but so does God. He knows I am a terminal mess in my flesh, but that my path is doggedly along the Narrow Way. I may be crawling through the mud most of the time, but He knows I am moving towards Him. My heart is wanting Him. He knows that whoever I am, I am His. 

Photo, Inside Looking Out, by José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez https://flic.kr/p/pz1jrM  

Lord, Lord

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23 

Reading these familiar verses, I wondered about the repetition of the name “Lord.” It reminded me of the verse in Exodus where God proclaims his name to Moses. 

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:5-7 

The people calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” were using the repetition of the Name in their defense. The first group called him Lord, Lord but didn’t do what he commanded. If you look at the previous verses in Luke 6, this includes, as God had described himself to Moses, loving your enemies, not condemning, but having mercy, forgiving sins, and saving the lost.

The second group defended themselves with works they had performed. But the works with which they defended themselves were the more spectacular and self-promoting. They said they did these works in his Name. Yet, again, they didn’t mention compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness.  

I am not saying that prophesying and driving out demons and performing miracles are not good and important. Rather, I am thinking, along with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that “We can worship religion and be very religious without God.” We must always intently have as our focus the glory and the will of God – knowing God – day by day, step by step. The temptation to glorify ourselves is insidious. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity. “Who do you say that I am?” “Why do you call me good? No one is good save God alone.” “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  

And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:45-46 (ESV) 

Could these “Lord, Lord” references be another way of making them think? Remember Jesus said “I and my Father are one,” deeply offending the religious leaders by calling himself equal to God. Could the repetition of the title Lord, as God himself had introduced himself to Moses, be another nudge? If you think I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Anointed One – if you call me Lord, Lord – why don’t you obey my commands? 

If what we work toward is not to be spectacular or religious, but rather to know Him, then we will know and experience His great heart of compassion and mercy. That great heart that came down with Jesus 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 

Oh Lord, may you never have to say to me “I never knew you.” May I be ever sensitive to your heart, listening for your gentle voice telling me what you want me to do – or better, what you want to do through me – right now. May I live in you and you live in me such that the light of your compassion and grace, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness shine out into this dark and hurting world.  

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV) 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 

Photo of rainbow by Jack Bair

Goofiness

I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality.

“Dear Mom, thank you for your love, commitment, sacrifice, wisdom, and goofiness. You’re really great and I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.” 

I received the above message from my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day morning via social media. It surprised, but somehow delighted me to see that description “goofiness” listed with the more lofty and important qualities.  

I think I inherited the goofiness from my dad, who made silly faces at us kids to make us laugh, and when we were upset, he would point at our bellies and make a huge, dramatic process of warning us that there was a giggle bubbling up – “Watch out! Here is comes!” It never failed. One time he got a guerilla suit from somewhere and galloped all over the house in it, with us squealing and laughing behind him. Another time, when we were on vacation driving along country roads, he honked the horn had us all call out and wave to total strangers sitting on their porches “to give them something to talk about.” His joke telling is legendary.  

But I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality to be listed in the same sentence as love, commitment, sacrifice and wisdom. 

“You never know what actions on your part are going to have the most significant impact on the people around you. Something you do that seems utterly mundane could be the thing that completely changes another person’s life. More than that, it could be the thing by which you become known.” — Jonathan Wattsi  

Yes, you never know.  

Then we went to church and the pastor gave a wonderful message for Mother’s Day on “momma guilt.”ii All moms think that they are ruining or have ruined their kids’ lives because of perceived failures and lack. But he urged us to let go of that lie. He pointed to 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 to show that none of us is everything, but that each of us has a gift given by God.  

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable … 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 

I don’t think I got everything he was saying because I was hearing God say, “if all were serious and somber, where would the giggles be? The thoughtful and dignified cannot say to the goofy ones ‘I have no need of you.’ But the parts that seem weaker are indispensable.” We need a good laugh. We need silly faces and silly songs.  

And that means my more serious parts can’t say to my goofy part, you are not valuable; you are not significant. I tuned back in just in time to hear the pastor end with this antidote to momma guilt: 

  • You are gifted 
  • Embrace God’s gifts 
  • Thank God for your value 
  • Receive the grace of God 

I laughed and I cried as I thought of goofiness as a gift from God. And that my goofiness gave me value. Because I have had a lot of “momma guilt.” And I have struggled to trust my kids to God, trust that he knows what he is doing. But he has always known.  

So, I am embracing my inner goofiness as a gift from God. A grace. And that this mundane goofiness is valuable, it has impact on people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure what that impact might be (ha ha). But I am trusting God for that also, he who has arranged me this way, and whose gifts are good.  

  i  Morning Musing: Mark 6:56  https://the-nexus.blog/2021/02/16/morning-musing-mark-656/ 

ii Goodbye Momma Guilt, Pastor Troy Gentz https://youtu.be/-PwhzWncwPU?t=1737 

Image, photo of me and two of my granddaughters performing a parody of Baby Face (by Harry Akst, with lyrics by Benny Davis) that we called Poopy Butt.

Repair Our Souls

He restores (brings back home, retrieves, turns back, refreshes, rescues, relieves, returns, repairs)

my soul (my self, inner person, my identity, who I really am, my life, mind, living being, desires, emotions, passions, that which breathes within me)  Psalm 23:3a

Oh Lord, restore our souls. Bring us back home. Turn us back. Retrieve us from the hand of the enemy. Rescue us!

Repair our souls, we pray. Our broken identities. Our fractured thinking. Our mangled emotions, desires, passions. Breathe your breath into us again. Refresh, revive, resuscitate us!

Give us the mind of Christ.

Give us a heart to know you.

Give us a soul – a passionate desire – to love our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors.

Human Coins

You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God.

“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:22-25 (NASB)

In the New Testament we read this famous account of the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus with the question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. They knew that either way he answered, yes or no, he would be in trouble.

The Roman coins were considered idolatrous by the Jews because they had the image of Caesar on them and, also, because Caesar proclaimed himself god. So, if Jesus said yes, he would be breaking the Mosaic Law. If Jesus said no, he would be breaking Roman law and could be arrested. He answered by saying, look, this coin has the image stamped on it of the one who owns it – so give it back to its owner. But, he said, give to God what is his. What did he mean by that?

In Jesus’ time there was something called the Mishnah, an oral tradition of the wisdom of the rabbis. It was later written down. But these sayings would have been known to Jesus’ learned challengers who were trying to ensnare him. One teaching, comparing stamped coins with people, is pretty amazing when applied to Jesus’ answer:

The mishna teaches: And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. — Sanhedrin 38a:10

Applying this teaching you could say that we human beings are stamped with the image of God. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). But unlike the Roman coins which were all stamped with the same image of Caesar, the stamps God puts on his human “coins” are all unique, revealing God’s inexhaustible power and creativity.

For we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

And when Jesus, pointing to the image, said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,” the teachers of the Law would have understood what he has saying to them. You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God. Give to Caesar what is stamped with his image.

This idea of human coins made me think of the parable that Jesus told of the woman who lost a coin and swept the house carefully, searching for it, until she found it. The insight of the rabbis gives this parable a totally different meaning for me, or a deeper meaning. Jesus told this story along with the parable of the lost sheep. Each human “coin” or “sheep” is precious to God, and he will tear the house apart, search high and low to recover one that is lost.

When an expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:34-37).” That is giving to God what is God’s. But Jesus went further. He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He was commanding us to acknowledge the preciousness, the inestimable value, the unending diversity, and creativity revealed in the unique stamp of God’s image on each one of our brothers and sisters, each human coin, and love them – as God loves us.

 

Photo of Roman denarius by DrusMAX – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24408884

 

 

Buried Treasure

You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

I have always seen this verse interpreted, and thought of it myself, as us finding the treasure of Jesus. And then going off and selling all that we have and following him, like Jesus recommended to the “rich young ruler” in Matthew 19:21 (NIV).

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But this time, as I read Matthew 13:24-44, I saw something else. Previously, in these verses, Jesus is comparing his people, his chosen, as good wheat planted in a field (this world), and the “sons of the evil one” as weeds. What if the treasure found in the field is us too? What if the good wheat and the hidden treasure are the same? And what if the man who finds the hidden treasure and goes away and sells all he has to buy the field is Jesus?

Yes, I believe and know and am joyfully grateful that Jesus is my Treasure, my “Pearl of great price,” worth everything I am and own. But, I am seeing that I am his treasure too. The treasure he came to find. The treasure for which he gave up everything to buy back, to redeem. The treasure that he can rightfully claim as his.

… Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:13b-14 (NASB)

The Greek word translated “possession” in the above verse is periousios, which means peculiar in the sense of special, or one’s own. H. Preisker has written that “Christ’s work of redemption has created for God a people that is a costly possession or special treasure.”[i] A treasure for whom Jesus joyfully went and “sold” all he had, for whom he sacrificed all.

… who for the joy set before him endured the cross … (Hebrews 12:2)

.. who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 NASB)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

You were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV)

Can you see yourself as a special treasure? You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life. A treasure he has pulled up out of that hole in the ground. A treasure who has, through his death on the cross, been resurrected out of the grave to new life, new value, new hope. You, yes you, are his precious treasure.

“You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 (NIV)

 

Photo by Puuikibeach on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/DyTeW1

This post is also available as a Bible study, freely available for use at Buried Treasure Bible Study

 

[i] Preisker, Herbert, “periousios,” in Gerhard Friedrich, ed., and Geoffrey Bromiley, trans. and ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), VI, p. 57.

Identity

Accepting that I am beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving.

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16a

God has been speaking to me lately about identity, about my real identity as he sees me. About how a false identity, one built on lies, is like a cracked or crooked foundation, skewing my whole life.

“And His Word makes it clear: at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – Anne Voskamp[i]

My whole life I have given in and accepted other people’s definition, the world’s definition, of my identity pounded into me from birth – mangled, marred, not good enough, just not. But, thinking that way makes me an innocent victim, while in reality, as Tim Keller writes in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from Him.” The truth is hard to accept when you are chin-deep in self-pity.

“Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” — Søren Kierkegaard

Ouch! I don’t want to hear that. That listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying, martyrdom is sin. Accepting that I am beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way wrote that lies about her identity had “become like my own name engraved right onto me. Fraud. Phony. Not Good Enough.” Engraved right on me too. I have always felt like a fraud, a pretender. I think it comes from having to perform in the crazy, imaginary theatre of other people’s heads for so long. Like removing a regretted tattoo, this engraving has got to go.

God has engraved my real identity on the palms of his hands. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16a). I know that, in this context, this verse is about Israel, but I believe it is about all whom God loves. He has engraved me on the palms of his hands, a place that is always visible to Him. How can I not engrave His real identity into my heart?

Lover (Song of Songs 6:3)

Redeemer (Psalm 14:16)

My Life (Colossians 3:3)

Restorer (Joel 2:25)

And if I do that, I have to accept who he thinks I am, who he made me to be – beloved. That is hard for me, after a lifetime of self-rejection and even self-hatred. Still absorbing that – not only how he sees me but what does accepting that truth mean? Being open to what he wants to make of me.

“There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into His hands and let themselves be formed by His Grace.” –Ignatius[ii]

How can God form me if I have “set” myself rigidly in a mold of lies? I must be pliable as fresh, new clay. The old me must be broken up, must die, be made over. I feel that after 45 years I am just now beginning to realize – and to admit into the secret place of my soul – the breadth and length and height and depth, the passion, the zeal of God’s love for me. Words cannot contain and it will take eternity to grasp. Where my treasure is there is my heart and my true identity. Let Him be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value. Lord lift the veil over my mind and bring life-giving revelation of how you see me, how you see us all. Beloved child of God.

 

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way. P. 184.

[ii] Letter to Ascanio Colonna (Rome, April 25, 1543)

 

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