For 24 years, I believed my identity was equivalent to the title attached to my name. As a result, I sought just that: titles, position, and status. However, as I searched and worked my way into significance, I always fell short. No position satisfied the identity crisis brewing inside my heart. I was at the top of my game, great at my job, surrounded by friends, social media followers increasing, and yet, internally, I still struggled to know who the real me was. Was my identity truly the equivalent of the title I worked so hard to earn? Or was the root of who I am something different entirely?
From the moment we step into our freshmen year of high school, it seems as if we’re groomed to answer the infamous question, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” We learn to answer the question and run wholeheartedly toward college degrees, internships, job interviews, landing the dream job, working for promotions, corner offices, and climbing the corporate ladder. And yet as I look back I often wonder: Why didn’t anyone ask me who I wanted to be?
In focusing on what I do over who I am, I became my role. And in the process, the core of me lost its way. I was physically sick, mentally discouraged, and emotionally tired. Sure, I was doing great things in my job – and a ministry job at that – but I couldn’t celebrate the life change happening around me because I wasn’t experiencing or living the very things I was working to put together. I found myself working to “make church happen” rather than living in the grace and mercy of a guy named Jesus Christ who died and rose again for me too.
One warm California night, Jenni Catron shared a statement with me that stuck like glue: “Emily, open your hands, palms up. Hold everything loosely and allow God to direct you, trusting Him with each next step.”
That next step came as I laid my position down. I stepped into a very unknown future with my all-knowing God, trusting Him to lead the way. And, friends, He did. For 9 months, I didn’t take on another title or position, but rather dove headfirst into learning about who I am and who God created me to be.
I discovered key elements that have been woven into the fabric of my story for as long as I can remember; I just had lost sight of them in my pursuit to sit at the head of the table. In my time without a title, I discovered what I wish I would have embraced all along: I don’t need a title or position to be who God made me to be. I just have to choose to be her.
I’m done believing the lie that God can only use me if I’m working for the biggest church in America or if I have a position with the most popular non-profit or I’m leading a Fortune 500 company. Life change is happening there and I’m celebrating it! However I don’t have to be there for God to use me; God uses us where we are – whether we’re in line at a coffee shop, working in a grocery store, or on staff at a mega church. It’s not, and never has been, about the title. It’s about who we are and if we’re willing and available to let God use us.
Throughout the Bible, I don’t find God saying that I need to “do” anything to earn His love or salvation. On the contrary, He says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT), and “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God” (John 4:23, The Message).
In our search for status, we lose sight of our true status – who God made us to be. It’s not about having a “work life” and a “non-work life”. Who we are should flow from the inside out into everything we do. James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (KJV). Who we are should feed what we do, not the other way around.
At the end of the day, if everything were stripped away and you were left with just you, would you like what was left? Ministry opportunities and jobs come and go; the constant is what God is doing in and through us. And that starts with knowing who He created us to be.