This morning I sit and gaze out upon a brilliant sunrise and stare in wonder at the beauty of early spring. Irises and tulips are beginning to stretch towards the sun and tiny green buds have begun to clothe the elm trees and I am surprised that winter has already begun to fade. It has been months since I have had a succession of days without work and I breathe deep in an effort to thoroughly enjoy the moment and squelch the uneasiness in my heart. I am a bit surprised to realize that it is not just the fear of small paycheck but my heart is also struggling with guilt and a loss of worth. In the past year I have rarely gone more than two consecutive days without carrying mail and I have been very blessed to work as much as I do as a substitute rural mail carrier, but today I suddenly realized how much it has become part of my identity. Without working, I find myself feeling as though I have not accomplished much and uncertain of how to spend my time. There is also a sense of guilt that I have not been productive with my day if I have not added to the paycheck I feel I so desperately need. Of course there is always more to do at home than I can ever get done; however, this week I have spent a lot of time asking myself, “Am I busy doing the right work? What work is the most important? Am I doing what I was created to do?
While the lack of work for a few days may not have thrown me into a major identity crisis, it did surprise me to realize how much my job has began to define who I am and my sense of worth. And it has me asking, “Am I really defined by what I do? Do I describe myself by what I do – is my identity really linked that closely to my work? As I sit thinking about how I view myself, I think back to the summer of 2010 when my son, Jerrod, helped me set up a WordPress blog. That year I precariously stepped out into the world of blogging and one of my first steps was writing a page telling the world about myself. Today I find myself looking back and reading a few saved versions of those ‘About Me’ pages – including the first one I wrote – as I prepare to edit my current ‘about me’ page. I discovered they do hold some surprising insights into my heart.
In every version I begin with, “…my life is multi faceted”. And while I may have meant that I do many things and there are many aspects of my life that I think are important, I look at that phrase and I see my fissured heart staring back at me like a face reflected in the shattered pieces of a broken mirror. My heart is divided because it does not always know what it loves and its love is imperfect and impure, tainted with an inflated view of self that overshadows all other loves. And it is our love that really dictates how we spend our time..
Yes, my life is ‘multi-faceted’ because there are many things I love and if I were honest, most of the time I would have to say there is nothing more precious to my heart and more vital to my identity than my children. Oh, how I would like to say my Lord is always my first and greatest love, but my children have often been dearer to my heart than anything or anyone else. And while who we love and care for may shape our identity, I think for most of us, what we do and accomplish may define us even more. For me, my children were both who I loved and what I did as I raised them and homeschooled each of them until they completed high school.
As I reflect back on my years as a homeschool mom I realize I homeschooled because I loved my children, but Homeschooling was also an important part of my identity; it made me feel both important and righteous. I still think homeschooling is an excellent form of education and a viable alternative to public school and I pray my children homeschool my grandchildren; but as the Lord has loosened my grip from the children I once idolized, I realize that homeschooling does not make me righteous nor does it guarantee righteous children. Though my mind may have heard, my heart is just beginning to really believe that my righteousness is truly found in Christ alone and my good deeds can often be just as deadly to my soul as my evil ones. And so I find myself asking again, “What work is the most important?
As I read back over the things I have written about myself, I also noticed the things that became less important with each passing year and the things that I chose to mention instead. I once thought it important to mention my husband was a farmer. I clung to this farm culture because I longed to identify with those who had deep roots. That longing was still whispering in some of those early ‘about me’ pages. However, as time passed I saw myself writing more about the things that simply bring joy to my heart as I embrace the beauty of the countryside where I have been planted. I do love the land and the stillness of this rural life, but I am beginning to realize my roots do not have to go deep into the soil for my heart to be deeply grounded. Recently, as I question how I spend my time, I am discovering the pleasure this homestead life brings does not fully equal the time it consumes. And so I find my idealistic view of an old-fashioned homestead fading and I am slowly letting go of the lifestyle I once valued so much.
Towards the end of that first about me page and all the subsequent revisions that followed I tell why I am writing a blog. Even though I had a few articles and poems published and had been scribbling my thoughts on paper for as long as I could remember, it was a courageous act to identify myself as writer because it was probably the one of the truest aspects of my identity and yet the one that I am most reluctant to announce or even embrace. I once thought I must be successful and well-known before I could call myself a writer. However, several years ago I realized that writing simply allows me to remind both myself and others of His goodness. For me, it can be a form of worship and success or a lack of success does not have to dictate whether or not it is a worthy endeavor for me to write. Unfortunately, writing is often lost in the midst of my ‘multi-faceted life.’
And so, the week has passed and I have busied myself with housework and farm work and today I am finally dabbling with my website. In the midst of my busyness I have continued to ask myself, “Am I busy doing the right work? What work is the most important? Am I doing what I was created to do? The questions bring soberness to all of the many tasks that seem to consume my time. But as I work I have thought of the passage Tim Keller often quotes from an old hymn, “Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus feet. Rest in Him, in Him alone; gloriously complete. These words from this old hymn have haunted me and they have me wondering why I feel my identity is defined by what I do? Perhaps it isn’t what we do that defines us so much as what we do simply defines what we love. Perhaps our identity isn’t found in the things we do at all but in the work He has already done.
Strange how my heart must continually be reminded of something it already knew, because as I look back at all the ‘about me’ pages that I have written and edited as my ‘multi-faceted’ life has tumbled and changed, I can’t help but notice that the last paragraph has never changed but has remained the same from the beginning.
But of all the many facets of my life, none are of any value were it not for the Grace of God that holds them all together. Were it not for the redeeming blood that covers my sin, all would be for naught, and it is only through Christ in me that there is any hope of glory. It is by His grace alone that any good comes in or flows through my life, and so to Him alone is all the glory.
And while it may not be perfectly written, and perhaps when it was written my heart did not perfectly grasp just as it still does not perfectly grasp our completeness in Christ, it still reminds me that all my doing in my broken, fissured life has no value and does not define me but in Him there is hope of glory and in Him I am gloriously complete.