By Lindsay Hart
Who am I? What is my purpose?
I wrestle constantly with these questions. It seems I’ve been suffering from an identity crisis for most of my life.
As a teenager, my identity depended on who I was hanging around. I enjoyed being the center of attention and being in the “popular clique.” One day I was a shopaholic fashionista. The next day I was a peer tutor. Either way, I was searching for an identity. As a college student, I focused less on popularity and more on becoming a teacher. Maturity helped shift my priorities to more important goals and aspirations. It felt like my teenage identity crisis was over. I found my identity and purpose in being a teacher.
I soon found a new identity as a wife. The balance of career and home life seemed right for a brief moment. Then I became a mother. I struggled every morning to drop my baby off at daycare. I felt as though I was cheating on him because I was leaving him to go take care of other children. Many mothers know the feeling all too well. How could I be a good teacher and a good mother? My identity crisis began to spiral out of control. The need for balance and control consumed me.
I got pregnant again, and my husband lost his job. Our insurance did not cover my pregnancy. I had no control over our circumstances. I believed God had proven his point. He was in control, not me.
My stubbornness kept me from complete surrender, though. I continued to try on new identities for years. I tried on the stay-at-home mom identity. I tried being a director of a preschool. I tried being a teacher again, which I have to admit has always been my favorite.
Finally, I surrendered my career to be obedient to something way outside my comfort zone. God made it very clear he wanted me to take a break from the hustle and bustle to focus on my family. During that year I was able to find some balance and peace in who I was as a wife and mother. He even blessed me with time to write a book. What an accomplishment!
However, the serenity did not last long. My husband and I have hopes and dreams for our future. Our bank accounts were not jibing with our plans. We prayerfully decided it was time for me to go back to work. It was clear to me that I needed to take it slowly. My plan was to accept a part-time job offer and eventually transition to full-time. Of course, by the time I started the job, it was a full-time position. Instead of following my gut and speaking up, I talked myself into going for it.
Needless to say, I regretted it. I became resentful of the time it required of me. Another identity crisis set in. The book I had been working to publish became my last priority. The children’s sports became such a hassle that we all hated them and couldn’t wait for them to be over. Cooking and cleaning were nearly impossible, which left me feeling inadequate at home. Time with my husband was another chore. My identity as a career woman felt forced. It was apparent that this was not God’s plan for me–at least, not then.
Once again I found myself asking the same questions. Who am I? What is my purpose?
I got on my knees as I sought answers. God used my time in prayer and Scripture study to provide answers so vivid, it felt like he spoke to me audibly. His Word gently reminded me of a hard truth: I cannot do it all and be the Christian I was meant to be. As much as it injured my pride, I had to reduce my hours at work.
After the kids finished the football and cheer season, we decided to take a break from extracurriculars for a while as well. Saying no to the simplest things, even enjoyable things such as a dinner date with friends, gave me freedom to rest. Instead of penciling in one more date on the calendar, I chose to leave space open for whatever might come. I watched a show, read a book, cuddled with my family on the couch, or sat on the front porch with a cup of coffee. I began to feel like me again.
I am not finding my identity in being a career woman or a soccer mom anymore. Instead, I am finally slowing down and finding my identity in Christ. The struggle to balance the stresses of life will always be there. Those who manage it all with grace are superheroes in my eyes. And for those of us who can’t manage it all, there is hope. There is hope in Jesus Christ, who gives us permission to rest in his identity rather than our own.
Lindsay Hart is a wife, mother of two, and elementary school teacher. She is on a mission to obey God doing whatever it takes to follow His commands in her life. Her obedience led to life changes such as taking time off work to focus on her family. Lindsay enjoys sharing her “God stories” and helping people grow closer to Christ. She blogs at lovedfirstbygod.wordpress.com.
Photograph © Molly Belle, used with permission