My sense of identity has taken a bit of a kicking lately.
After some lengthy reflection I realized that I had allowed my dominant characteristics as an encourager and responder to sit in the driver’s seat of my life and we almost crashed.
I am a natural encourager. I think I may have even born with pom-poms in each hand. Although it is biblically described as a gift, I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to leave you feeling empty.
I had one of those “ah ha” moments while talking to a dear friend. I heard myself saying, “When you allow another person to decide what role you play in their life, you’re also giving them permission to decide when you no longer fill that role. If your identity is wrapped up in it, you’re screwed.”
Here’s a painful example. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but before I lost the baby, I had taken on the role of mother. I began to see myself as a mom, a nurturer, a protector, a teacher and everything that goes with motherhood. When the baby died in my womb, so did the identity, and that loss took the longest to get over.
In such painful seasons, we need to know who God says we are as the main part of our identity, so when roles are removed for one reason or another, we are not shaken. Yes, it can be painful, but our firm foundation built on Christ remains.
I have had to take a step back to re-evaluate my true identity. In my role as an encourager, I should have felt refreshed in pouring out and allowing the Holy Spirit to replenish my supply. Instead, I felt much like an apple tree that had been stripped bare of all of its fruit without receiving anything to generate new growth. God asked me, “Did I ask you to do this?”
I had to answer honestly, that in entering performance mode, seeking approval from man, rather than Him, I had allowed myself to be depleted. It wasn’t God’s fault or anyone else’s; it was my own doing.
God’s timing and orchestrating is perfect, however. A trip gave me time to disengage and allowed God to hit the reset button. In an unfamiliar environment where I had no agenda nor grasp of a foreign language, I was given plenty of quiet time, even among people. Because I didn’t speak the language, I could zone out and just commune with God while conversations went on around me. This time in the secret place had my dream life and receiving of revelatory words going through the roof. One morning I woke up with the words, “Let the dead bury their dead.” ringing in my ears. I knew the bible passage where Jesus referred to what was required of those who wanted to follow Him, but I wasn’t sure what He was specifically saying to me with those words. I did a little research on the passage; Jesus was obviously not being literal. If I’m understanding the commentator correctly, He was suggesting that those who were spiritually dead and had no real burning desire to pick up their cross and truly follow, should just stay behind with their excuses. I saw this as a personal invitation to stop trying to coax and encourage others to be who God called them to be, but to get on with the Luke 4:29 mandate in my own life. My job is to be about my Father’s business, it’s not to play Holy Spirit. Praying for others is fine, but the obligation stops there. We are called to pray and intercede as the Spirit leads, but not to keep looking back to make sure others are following and slowing our own pace so they can catch up.
During this season, I asked God, “Who do You say I am?” His response was so much kinder than my disparaging self-talk. I knew the answer came from Him because it lifted me up and every kind word could be traced back to scripture. That’s God for you- the Affirmer, the Proud Papa, the Protector, and Lover of our soul.
Through this revelation, I learned more about my identity than I ever knew before. He has given me laser-like focus on where my gifts are to be used. Yes, the encourager still plays a lead role in my character, but He assigned me that role and He determines when and where it’s deployed. When I go into the strip clubs as part of a women’s ministry team that supports and loves on women caught in the sex industry, the encourager and healer show up manifesting God’s power and mercy in abundance. This is where I feel His presence and know that I am in His perfect will, doing what He has called me to do. I see His approving nod and sense His grace and compassion partnering with me when I take time to share the gospel with a homeless man.
When we steward the gifts He’s given us and use them for His designed purposes, we are not left feeling empty or like a tree picked of all of its fruit. The river of living water bubbles up inside us and the flow is not interrupted by our emotions and our feelings because it’s Christ at work in us, not our flesh.
I’ve decided to hang up my pom-poms. I’m still the consummate encourager and I suspect I always will be; I’m just going into stealth mode.
Yes and amen.