The Head and The Heart: Reflections on Gospel Identity
By Becca Wellan
Today, my dear friend came over, just to talk. Sitting on my bedroom floor, wrapped in blankets, we talked girl-talk, life-talk, Jesus-talk. Somewhere between the laughter, honest reflections on God’s grace towards us, and an intense discussion on the sugar content of yogurt… I started crying, again.
As we were talking, a question freakishly common amongst twenty-somethings came up: what in the world am I doing with my life?
That’s when it hit me. Even though I’ve wrestled with this question since I was a freshmen in college, I still feel judgement, shame, and confusion when people ask me about my education, what I do, and where I’m going with my life.
I’m a college graduate with a Creative Writing degree, working a college-girl job as a nanny. I have no career goals because I haven’t found anything I’m passionate about yet (except being a nanny). When I say this, I see people look disappointed, confused. “Oh,” they say, “okay … that’s great.” Then, quick as a hummingbird, I tell them I’m “thinking” of getting my masters in teaching. Despite not really wanting to teach, anymore. But dropping the grad school comment makes me sound - and oddly, feel - like I have a direction.
And, again, I feel shame creep into my mind. Subtly, at first, then in waves.
Ya know, I know stuff. I know that Jesus died to save me. I know that I am loved by Him. I know I am forgiven. I know that in and through the work of Christ I don’t have to be ashamed, anymore. I know these earth-shattering realities can transform anyone.
I believe these truths with all my mind. But my heart doesn’t always clue in. When it’s 2am and I can’t sleep because self-condemning thoughts plague me, or I’m talking with a friend and burst into tears because I have no “direction” in my life, I forget what I thought I knew.
Ya know, I know stuff. Yet, there are lies in my heart I believe so deeply that they drown out what I know. Subtly, at first, then in waves. I believe the lie that that my worth as a person is found in how other people view me. I believe that my worth - my ticket to feeling “okay” with my life - is found in using my degree. In having career goals. In “success.” In settling down. In white picket fences, pearl necklaces, golden retrievers and a husband. None of which I have.
Though our world tells us we are what we do and what we have, Jesus tells us we are who He says we are, and in Him we have everything. And this changes how we view what we do, and what we have.
So, what defines you? What do you look to to define your worth and establish your identity?
Recently, I asked my lovely small group girls these same diagnostic questions. We’re going through Ephesians, a book that establishes the identity we have in Jesus. All our answers - some unspoken - were different. No struggler has an identical twin. But what we all have in common - including you - is this; by nature we rely on something other than God to make us feel worth something. For me, it’s having a career. I believe that if I had one, my existence would be validated and people would respect me. The truth? Even if I had this Barbie Dream Career and Ken to make me pancakes and bacon, I still wouldn’t feel fulfilled. Another monster is bound to haunt me.
Paul writes Ephesians from a prison cell. Probably not in your five-year plan. Yet by God’s strength, he is incredibly passionate about the blessings we have through the gospel. It even changes how Paul sees his not-so-comfortable circumstances. He tells his readers of the blessing of a new identity - chosen by God, adopted into His family, fully forgiven, redeemed out of darkness, and loved so deeply by a perfect savior (Ephesians 1:3-7). Everything we are should - and by His strength, can - be colored by this reality. In other words, I am not “Becca, the girl without a direction.” No! I am “Becca, chosen by God to be His daughter, cherished beyond words, and blessed by the promise that He is always at work in my life.”
Who are you?
May our head-knowledge, by His power, be transformed into heart-knowledge. If you believe in Jesus, your value is fixed. On the cross Jesus paid the highest price to save you; His own life. Now you are an adopted child, completely forgiven, loved and cherished. THIS is your identity. And it doesn’t change. Ever. But it can change you, as His truth saturates your mind and your heart.
Now go, rest in truth. Believe and live as one redeemed. It’s who you are.