One of my least favorite questions, which I actually get quite a lot (especially by well-meaning childhood friends) is this:
“Are you happy?”
While it seems like a pretty harmless question, I absolutely hate what it implies: that being a mother, and only a mother, is not a real job and me being happy doing this would be quite unusual.
At least, that’s how I’ve always thought of it. And while it seems that being a stay at home mother is one of those jobs that is thought of more often as one that diminishes your worth, I realized recently that there is so much more wrapped into this whole issue.
The core issue isn’t that being a mom is for losers… The issue is that our culture believes the lie that our identity is in what we do, what we wear, who we are or are not in a romantic relationship with, where we live, and more.
We also believe that our goal should be to be successful, powerful, beautiful, wealthy and have everything our heart desires.
What I want to unveil right now is a lie that you as a mother are most likely believing.
Being a mother is not who you are.
If you would have asked me when I was a teenager to give you a word to define myself, I would have chosen one of these: Boy-crazy. Flirtatious. Easy. Damaged goods.
Because of a series of choices I made that brought me to a place of shame, that was all that I saw in myself and all I thought I could be, to the point that I thought it would be better if it was just over – all because I thought my whole worth was constrained by my mistakes and weaknesses.
Thankfully, God saved me from this place. I learned that I was not defined by my sin and I did not have to live in shame. And while God replaced my shame with his grace, my needy self quickly replaced that identity of being a sinner with something I thought was “good”.
I distinctly remember a day during my college years when I smiled to myself and thought “Huh, I really belong here.” I had found my people. I was a missionary, a “YWAM-er”, a “real Christian”. I was passionate about God and missions and I defined myself by that.
But then, God called me out of that life. He called me to be a pastor’s wife and a stay-at-home mother. I had a time for a while that I was really depressed, confused and felt like I had lost myself.
I no longer felt worthless – but it was the other extreme. I felt like I had done so much and learned so much, that I deserved to do something great and I felt like God had taken that away from me.
My identity was in the good things I had done, and when I was no longer doing those specific things, I felt useless and spiteful.
Over time, God has taught me so much and changed my heart, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I really had a revelation of what the core issues were that caused this change of heart…. It all had to do with where I was placing my identity and where I found my worth.
My identity cannot be in anything that I do, have or know. My identity must be in Christ alone.
If my identity is in being a mother, I am going to end up feeling depressed when I don’t do everything right. If I’m not living up to the standards I have for myself or that others have of me, I am going to feel frustrated with myself. If I lose my son, or I cannot have more children, there is going to be a loss there.
If my identity is in being a wife, I am going to feel a loss, not only of that love but of the essence of who I am, if my husband dies. When my husband fails me, I am going to be deeply hurt. I am going to be depressed and ashamed in the times that our marriage isn’t as strong, or when we are having a hard time, instead of just seeing that love as a gift from God. I must see my husband as a partner on our journey to serve Christ, and not let myself slip into seeing him as the one who saves me or defines me.
If my identity is found in my sin and failures, I am diminishing the power of what Jesus has done for me on the cross. I am limiting God’s power in my life by lessening my worth to that of the sin that he has already forgiven.
If my identity is found in the things that I have achieved or my talents, my identity will be in what I can do. If I can’t use those achievements/talents for some reason, I am going to feel useless. If I can use those achievements, I will become competitive and puffed up with pride in those abilities. I must be open-handed with those gifts and only use them in humility to serve God and others.
If my identity is found in the things I possess, then my worth is in a very fragile place. If those things are taken away from me (which they could be SO easily), I would feel at a total loss.
If my identity is found in my friendships, I am going to feel broken and depressed and alone when those people disappoint, frustrate or hurt me.
If my identity is found in my job, I am going to be completely dependent on everything about it to give me worth. If I mess up, disappoint my boss, or get fired… that is going to devastate me.
If my identity is found in my beauty, then I am going to feel lost if I gain too much weight and struggle to lose it – or as I get older and know there is nothing I can do to change the loss of my youthful beauty.
But, if my identity is in Jesus Christ, who NEVER changes, I have a firm and secure identity that has nothing to do with what I or others perceive me to be.
Jesus says I am infinitely valuable.
Jesus says I am chosen and adopted into his family.
Jesus says I belong to and am loved by him.
Jesus says I am accepted exactly where I am at.
Jesus says I am free from all my sin and bondage.
Jesus says his presence will never leave me.
And guys, because of these truths that define me, it doesn’t matter to me what circumstances surround me. They are only temporary. Before I know it, things are going to be different than they are right now – and I’m going to be just as content and joyful no matter what those circumstances will be.
Whatever God has given me right now, it’s okay! I will delight in him and do my best to serve him in whatever I have to do for him right now. I am stoked about the future that he has for me, and what he has given me is good, and it is enough – because HE is enough and he will never change.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”