[This is a guest post by Jessica Everingham, originally published as “My Identity Is Broken“.]
Few words chill me like those two. I hate them even more than doing my taxes.
I’ll tell you, though I know this story won’t put me in the best light.
I’ve always enjoyed that there was something a little different about me. In school, it was simply that I was bright and everything came easily. After school, it was my job as a journalist. Everyone thought that was interesting.
Now I’m a boarding school mistress and aspiring author. The school doesn’t pay very well, but I love the kids and it allows me time to write. Besides, very few people work in boarding schools or write books—and I do both. I like that. I’m also still a volunteer journalist and spent the past weekend working on the media team at the Easterfest music festival. People paid attention to the media lanyard around my neck. It was cool.
But this week I’m having to face a fact: my part-time job and ‘unpaid career’ aren’t making any money. And since I’ve had no luck getting back into paid journalism, I need to go do something boring like flip burgers or answer phones. Anything that pays.
I don’t like the thought of having a boring job. But what I really hate is the possibility that if I never get my novels published, the boring job could be my whole career. I could be a completely uninteresting, nothing-unusual-about-her, regular old person.
[Insert gagging here.]
It’s a sobering thought, but so is the fact that my identity is way more wrapped up in my work than I realized.
I posted about God and identity a few months ago on my own blog. It was actually the first post I wrote that started attracting views. It kick-started my blogging journey. Yet here I am four months later, realizing that without an ‘interesting’ job my sense of identity is shattered.
I also know, deep down in myself, that my writing career probably isn’t going to move very far forward until I sort this thing out. I can feel God prodding, showing me where I need to change. And I know that if I get the ‘success’ I crave tomorrow, it could easily destroy me.
If I had overnight success, my identity would only become further intertwined with my career. I would become proud. I would also dread the day when my book sales dropped and I moved from the ‘successful’ category to a ‘has-been.’ That fear would motivate me to put writing ahead of relationships and even God. And on the day when my fear would come true, it would sink me into the depths of despair.
That’s not a future I want.
I already know that God wants my identity to be in Him. Why else would He say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”? (Mk 12:30 NIV, emphasis mine).
He wants all of me. And if I was as focused on God as what that verse says, I wouldn’t be so worried about my own sense of identity.
If that verse isn’t enough, here’s another:
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39 NIV)
Would I be happy to lose myself, if God asked? Could I walk away from my computer and writing career?
With my current mindset, that would be pretty difficult. Since I don’t like the thought of being dependent on a job for my sense of self-worth, I think it’s time to change. Which is all well and good, but…how?
Well, Jesus tells us that ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’. (John 15:5 NIV) So Step One is asking God for His continued help. And while I’m at it, I’ll ask Him to keep pointing out these areas where I need to change.
Step Two will be keeping the above verses in my mind. I need to spot those wrong thoughts when they come and use the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) to stab, slice and dice them away. It might take a while, but we’ll get there.
It almost seems silly for me to let go of my drive to succeed. After all, ‘success’ is our holy grail. The people we most admire are the ones who have success in their families, businesses, ministries and general life.
But in the long run, I know this is going to be freeing. I’m still going to work hard. But if things don’t pan out, I will know my life is still significant, because it’s been spent in relationship with God. I won’t be weighed down by my fear of failure or my dread of insignificance. I’ll have the courage to just be God’s follower—nothing more, nothing less.
And that is both the most humble position and highest honor in the world.
Jessica Everingham is a journalist, blogger, boarding school mistress and aspiring author. She is 22 and lives in sunny Queensland, Australia. She loves connecting with people via her blog, Consumed By Him, Facebook and Twitter (@JessEveringham). Come say hi!