Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
When I quit working full time about 25 years ago, it was hard for me to accept that I no longer contributed financially to our little family. My identity was wrapped up in working. I had earned money since I was a kid collecting cans and newspapers and turning them into the recycler. In college at one point, I had a job, a paid internship, a full load of classes, and was the president of a professional-based club. Work was what I knew and work was what defined me.
Not long after I decided to stay home with our 2-year old daughter I found myself face-to-face with my identity problem. My daughter and I were walking home from a neighborhood park. We had to cross a very busy street. When we got the “walk” sign we made our way across in the crosswalk. In one of the cars waiting for the light to change was an obviously very angry and impatient man. He yelled out the window to me, “Hey loser, why don’t you get a job?”
Instead of being angry I was mortified. You see, I agreed with him. I wasn’t seeing myself as first a mother and wife then someone who could, if I wanted to, get a job. I saw myself first as a jobless loser.
What do you see yourself as first these days?
As my faith journey has progressed my answer to that question has evolved. Once my second daughter came along, I threw myself into motherhood. I even placed being a wife much farther down the list for a bit. Being a Christian was way down on the list. In between I was a “coach,” a “PTA president,” a “school volunteer,” a “Girl Scout leader.” And now, looking back, had I placed “Christian” as my primary identity I would’ve made a number of different choices along the way.
Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.Joyce Meyer
I love this quote by Joyce Meyer because it speaks to the heart of this issue of identity. We may say what our identity is but how do we act? What do we base our decisions on day in and day out? Do we decide what’s best for our kids based on their happiness or based on God’s direction? Do we treat our spouses based on where we place our marriage on our identity list or on God’s expectation of us? Do we hold dear the income from that job more than we do our relationship with our Lord?
It’s taken me awhile to truly accept the identity hierarchy God wants for me – 1) Jesus Follower 2) Wife 3) Mother 4) Whatever else He directs me to. And in our verse today the priority for us is to be a “God Approved Worker for Him.” Not ashamed of following His Word as best we can in every decision we make.
I used to listen to the famed Dr. Laura quite a lot. One day she was talking about divorce. She said that if you go into a marriage with the option of getting divorced you will always find reasons to not work on your marriage. But if you go into it (having made a healthy choice of spouse) with the priority of staying together no matter what, you will always find new and creative ways to work out problems. Our faith is a lot like that.
When we place our faith as our primary identity it changes who we marry, who we spend time with, what type of job we want, how we use our money, how we treat our families and friends, and more. We are God’s co-workers. And we are tasked with being proud of that identity.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
So again, I ask, what identity have you placed at the top of your list?
If it’s not “Christian” why not? What’s holding you back? God is waiting for you to put Him first. Because when you do then, I believe, He claps His hands and says, “Great, now let’s get down to business!”
This is a great except from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity that might help spur you on to your new identity.
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”