So, as I went through the Lent season, I would consistently look in the mirror, notice the dark circles under my eyes (with no make-up to cover them) and my frizzy hair, and then think to myself, “Okay, my identity is not in my looks. My identity is in Christ…but what does that mean?”
I tried thinking of my other identities and what they meant to me. My identity as a woman is the identity I identify with strongest, but I couldn’t really put words to what that meant either…
So then I turned to scripture. What does the Bible say about looks or identity?:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. – Song of Solomon 4:7
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. -2 Corinthians 4:16
This gave me a better picture of God’s character and the true meaning of beauty, but I still wasn’t sure how to wrap my mind around what this means as my identity.
But over time, and through various conversations with friends and my husband, it came to me: the meaning of my identity in Christ is simply LOVE. This sounds so cheesy and cliche, I hesitated to write it and tried to think of several different ways to explain it, but this is honestly all I could see it boiling down to: LOVE.
I fear that my Wheaton cohorts may cringe at my exegetical conclusion (and maybe also the way I just used “exegetical”), but in reflecting on my identity in Christ it all led to this:
We love because He first loved us. -1 John 4:19
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. -1 John 3:16
I’m not sure that letters typed on a page can aptly express the power of these words for me. Anything I say to explain feels trite. But I have to try.
To me, these verses mean that I am so deeply loved. I am deeply loved by One who knows me completely. He knows me inside and out. He knows my sins. He knows my lies. He knows my inconsistencies, my insecurities, and my judgmental Spirit. And He loves me. He knows my bitterness, and my passive aggression, and my selfishness. And He loves me. He knows my hypocrisy, and my lack of faith, and my boundless anxiety. And He loves me.
But it goes even further. My purpose, my identity, is in His love. I can risk loss, because He loves me. I can be myself, because He loves me. I can make mistakes, because He loves me. I can allow myself to feel, because He loves me. I can move forward, because He loves me.
And another step further. I love others, because He loves me. Despite what anyone has done, I live a life of love and forgiveness because I know I have been loved and forgiven by Him who I have hurt over, and over, and over again. I’m not saying I’m the best at it, but my identity in Christ means I love others.
When someone loves me. LOVE
When someone wrongs me. LOVE
When a friend lies to me. LOVE
When a family member hurts me. LOVE (after allowing myself to feel and express the hurt)
When I’m mad at my husband. LOVE
When I receive cat calls. LOVE
When I’m angry. LOVE (often after expressing the anger appropriately)
When I’m tired. LOVE
When there’s a school shooting. LOVE
When I’m working. LOVE
My identity in Christ is LOVE.