Dad’s Nose, Mom’s Smile

Dad

I have my dad’s nose. Every bit of my face, dirty blonde hair to crooked smile, belongs uncontestedly to my mother, but the nose. That broad Hutchinson nose defies my mother’s narrow ski slope one, as if my dad had to lay claim to at least one feature to prove his paternity.

Honestly, the rest of it is Mom’s too, from blue eyes to bad kidney to oddly long, skinny toes. I’ve always called the awkward smile in photos the Hutchinson smile, but it’s clearly the Swanson smile, because my brother has it too, and he is not a Hutchinson.

My dad runs deeper in me than facial features, though. Though he couldn’t prove it by my face, much of me is his, more than I ever realized as a child, staring into the mirror assuming I must be my mother through and through.

Not so.

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Skye

I look up at the white stone arch, September-red leaves twining around it like tendrils of a Scottish lass’ hair framing her alabaster face. At least, that’s what one imagines, gazing at castle ruins and thinking of lairds and ladies descending that now-crumbling staircase to waiting fawners and flatterers.

It appears this Isle of Skye, my potential homeland, wasn’t the kindest place to run a castle. They tended to fight over them on the regular, exchanging land between the clans like I exchange paint colors on the walls. Every several years, but much more violently. Seriously, if you want a change of scenery, paint is a simpler call.

Coming to Skye has been a dream of mine since I can remember. Before I knew my maiden name likely hailed from Scotland more than England. Before I knew its possible origin lay right on this island, nestled in the Clan Donald castle in whose ruins we now stand. Some part of me has always longed to stand here.

Also, I’ve always known a castle by the sea should rightfully be my home. It’s obvious some ancient lady who had my nose once walked along this shore. I know it.

The other castle we tour has far more visitors, but this one calls me. It’s a period novel cover, and I love every last falling, moss-covered stone.

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Leaving

We make our way to the museum on the grounds, and the displays on emigration fascinate me.  There is a replica of a ship’s quarters, pieces of memorabilia, and a room filled with the history of those who left the island when persecution mixed with hunger grew too insistent.

The wooden trays pull out smoothly. Either the museum workmanship was stellar, or ages of people like me have pulled them out, searching for signs of who knows what, more interested in some hazy genealogical quest than the history of Skye and its clans.

The tiny bunk area, a scarce few feet wide and long, housed families leaving the persecution of the Scots and hoping for a new start, after weeks on a rough sea in their miniature quarters.

Do I have ancestors who made that sail? My father’s family hails from Kentucky, somewhere. That’s about all I’m sure of. Kentucky is a quick jump over the mountains form North Carolina, the settling place of some of these ships. Were distant grandparents on one of them, and were their names recored somewhere within these wide pull drawers?

I don’t know. I want to believe so.

Why do I need to know?

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Our exchange student years ago asked that question. “Americans—you say you’re Swedish, or German, or Irish. But you’re not—you’re American! I’m German. Why are you all so obsessed with being something else?”

She had a point.

Perhaps it’s America’s youth, its rootlessness, its diversity. Its rough and rumble beginning that makes it question its parentage like a child who doesn’t know who his daddy is.

But why is it personal? Why do I not simply want to know about the MacDonald clan of Skye but I desperately want to be one of them? Information isn’t enough. I want membership.

We wander the gardens after, looking skyward at the massive trees. Apparently, the laird loved his trees, and he brought them back form all corners of the world. There is a love of growing things in my heritage—more proof I belong.

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Gardens

Another garden, another time, two other people. One eats a ripe, irresistible fruit. The other stands beside her, neither encouraging nor preventing, complicit in the act. Nearly as soon as the act is complete, the questions come.

Who am I?

Who is my father?

Why am I hiding?

Will I ever know those answers again?

And ever since, God their father has been trying to give them back their identity. To tell them who they are. Whose they are.

Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “Identity. It’s always God’s first move.”

It’s what we all seek. It’s what we all want.

A name. A Place. A past. A future.

My identity may begin in Varmland, Sweden, and Skye, Scotland. It might not. I only know the former for sure, and I still deeply want to know the latter. Or maybe I don’t, because if it isn’t true, I’ll have to give up my dreams of lairds and ladies and castles by the sea and being Scottish which is, I think we all agree, better than just plain English. Certainly the accent is.

I have my dad’s nose. I have my Father’s image. Who I am doesn’t depend on those sliding trays of names and history. It doesn’t. But still, I want to know.

Books Have Helped

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Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

In the beginning, the baby bird’s cries sounded not so much plaintive as curious. “Are you my mother?” He didn’t know, as he ran from one being to the next, dog, cow, boat, plane, asking his question. Nearer the end, I’d hear the increasingly frightened baby, fearful of being alone in a giant world of snorting cranes and belching barges.

The turquoise cover with the sparsely-drawn little hatchling always closed on a happy ending, and I didn’t know if it was his safe return to his mother or his adventures in the great wide world I loved the best as a little girl.

Favorite Friends

I can still see my favorite book covers that I pulled open over and over as a tiny girl. Are You My Mother? sat on the shelf near the white polka-dotted Put Me in the Zoo and the Old World deep red of Ferdinand the Bull. They all fell open easily, their bindings creased with jelly-butter hands and little girl adoration.

Now that I review the past, it shouldn’t amaze me that all three have a protagonist who feels mismatched with the world he experiences.

Those are the stories that spoke to a little girl, the last of seven, the one no one in that family of nine quite understood, except perhaps my sister Marilyn who stayed home with me all day, because her wheelchair didn’t allow her the freedom to explore the world as she would have liked. My smallness didn’t, either.

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Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

More Old Friends

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Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

By eight, I rode my hand-me-down teal green bike to the McHenry Library once a week. We lived outside of town, over the one-lane metal Old Bridge, so it felt like riding to the next county. My mother told me it was only a mile—google maps now tells me two. Mom didn’t have google.

At least a couple times a year, I strained high and took a blue book off the shelves in the “big people” section. I knew exactly where it resided on that shelf, a biography of Helen Keller the name of which I don’t remember but the content I don’t forget.

The cover felt worn, partially because I had worn it but mostly because it was old, the blue fabric wearing into strands rough on my small fingers rather than a smooth linen. 

Helen, too, felt alone. Helen, too, had dreams of leaving her confined world. Helen, too, was, as my mother described her last offspring, “stubborn as a mule.” I liked Helen. I loved that she won. I struggled with her every time I read her story, and I read it a lot.

I didn’t know as a little one that my firm standing as an INFJ and a female Enneagram 5 would always ensure I felt not quite “in” anything. Such knowledge comes much later, if at all, and we’re left to navigate the whys of feeling in this world but not of it on our own when we’re small.

I only knew books helped.

It wasn’t even hard to feel countercultural when I became a Christian near the end of high school. I already was.

The hard part was taking “me” out of the center of it all, a struggle I continue every morning when the alarm wails at me.

Books have continued to help.

New Friends

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Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

When I stood beneath the venerable tan archway of Wash U as a new student, looking alternately up at the looming arch and down at the bronzed, scuffed circle beneath me that honored our equally venerable founder, William Greenleaf Eliot, I knew the next four years would involve a lot of books.

I planned a major in political science. Economics stood in the second-place slot, at least until I discovered how much calculus it involved. Third, in what the horses races call “show,” was English. Somehow, by the beginning of sophomore year, that third horse pulled around the outside corner to become the winner, surprising no one but me.

Four years later, with a black flat cap, gold cords, and a three-hundred degree graduation ceremony out in the quad (English majors know the proper use of hyperbole), I held a degree that led me to teach high school literature, not sit at a table learning of amicus curiae, habeas corpus, torts, and writs.

Thank you, Jesus.

Always Friends

Books saved me as a child. They told me there were others out there like me. No one could be completely alone if stories brought into my bedroom nearly-orphaned little birds, not-quite-dogs whose spots led them to seek acceptance in a zoo, or bulls who sniffed flowers and imagined a world in which they didn’t have to be who they weren’t.

Books opened my confined world as a teenager. Sometimes, the discovery left scars, because the world I didn’t know could be brutal, even more than the one I did. That was Of Mice and Men and The Pearl. Darn Steinbeck. 

Sometimes, they left yearning, like half-breaths I didn’t know I was breathing, catching in my throat. That was Anne of Green Gables, Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time—books I didn’t even read until I was twenty-two, but that doesn’t matter.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Books have formed me as an adult. I’ve turned from fiction to theology, sociology, biography, history. Non-fiction, well done, still drives the imagination, and that it drives mine toward a better me, a better church, and a better world resonates with me more than fiction these years.

With the tribute to Eugene Peterson last week, I thought perhaps I would continue in a series of books that changed me, in some way, spiritually. In a positive way, that is. We’ve got way too much negative swimming around already.

What works have stuck with me, making me a better version of the small child who wondered if anyone else out there understood what life felt like, real life, the kind that feels everything and wants to know the limits and go beyond them. That child is still there. I hope, believe, she’s less her, more Jesus by now.

Books have helped.

In the Weeds

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Weeds are the supreme challenge for an enneagram 5.

You simply cannot accomplish the elimination of weeds. You can’t feel capable when surrounded by waist-high thistle. You cannot prove your worth by becoming the master of every errant dandelion.

I have a problem with this.

Back to Work

Mornings around here have evolved into their common summer patterns. First thing, I go out into the yard to spend an hour or so working in the yard, before the sun has had its chance to turn this acre into a sauna and me into a sweaty, dirty sauna-ee.

Usually, it means pulling weeds. Giant weeds. Weeds that are taller than I am, if they’ve been left too long.

I don’t mind the work. The bigger issue is what it does to my mind. It’s created a problem with the way I see things. I can’t go out into my yard without seeing the weeds. There my be lilies and roses and coneflowers flashing and dancing all over the yard, but what do I see?

The weeds.

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No matter how much good overflows my yard, I am conditioned to look around and see all the work that needs to be done. Unless I make the conscious effort, I can’t enjoy the beauty because I’m focused on what isn’t perfect.

I know how long that to-do list is, and I know I haven’t reached the bottom of it. I don’t know why I’m convinced there is a bottom to it—we rationally know there never is. Yet we still believe there will one day magically be a moment when we look around and rejoice that everything is accomplished.

(I think that day is the one we die, so why are we do eager for it anyway?)

Meanwhile, weeds.

This might sound familiar to some of you.

Grace

I don’t do this in other peoples’ yards. When I go to their gardens or their homes, I see gorgeous flowers, delicious dinners, a house that looks welcoming or a garden that invites me into relaxation.

I don’t see their weeds first. (OK, I do see weeds—I have a tendency to almost start pulling them. Occupational hazard. But I don’t think they’re terrible people for having weeds.) I see what they’ve managed to do, not what they haven’t done.

Why am I so quick to see the flaws in my own world and not the beautiful pieces?

Why do I only notice what needs doing instead of relish what has been accomplished?

Why do I offer grace to everyone but me?

Take Time To See

I’ve been taking some time this summer to do that. To intentionally look around and see the wonderful places my hands have created. I’m looking first at the flowers, the patchwork of foliage and the different textures playing together in dappled light. The hues I placed next to one another on purpose—a purple-leaved heuchera here to catch the purple vein in a fern there. There is artistry. There is accomplishment. There is an unfinished canvas, to be sure, but there are corners of triumph.

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What’s required in my garden might be needed in my life, too. After so much time recovery from last winter’s injury, I began to learn this lesson, too. Look at the wins. The losses are hard, and they are to be grieved. But they do not define who we are.

There are corners of triumph.

Even in my date book, there are spaces for writing down “this week’s wins.” How wise is that? What would change in our joy if we habitually wrote down this weeks’ wins and focused on them, rather than this week’s items that did not get checked off the interminable to-do list?

I wonder.

So I’ve begin that practice, too. I’ve started looking at the list of tasks for church, writing, family, and life and started telling myself the truth.

What doesn’t get done doesn’t change my value.

What does get done is cause for celebration.

Whatever is left over can be done another time, or never at all, and the world will still turn, and I will still be beloved.

These are hard truths for an Enneagram 5 to believe, wrapped up in our need to feel capable. So I’m learning to turn over that need and focus instead on a more necessary one—the need to know who and whose I am. The need to offer and receive grace.

The need to accept weeds. But not see them.

How to Help Your Kids Overcome Jealousy and Insecurity

P1050504(Sibling rivalry does not have to come to this.)

“Mommy, is she going to be better at everything than me?”

I hugged my dripping wet tiny seven-year-old. At the end of our girls’ first swimming lessons, what I had dreaded the whole six week session happened.

The younger got promoted to the next level and her big sister didn’t.

Bigger and more athletic than her older sister, she simply had better motor skills, a higher attention span, and more courage at that young age. Big Sister struggled with a mix of hurt and jealousy.

“Am I always going to be not as good?”

I struggled, too.

I mean, given their genetics, none of our children were ever going to be athletically coordinated, let alone gifted. As the larger and stronger child, though, her little sister did have an edge. What to say to this little wet waif, certain that she would always be at the end of every performance test?

I’m checking in at A Fine Parent today with this article on children, jealousy, and how to find abundant praise for everyone, no child left behind!

Read the whole post here.

Would You Rather–Tend a Grave or Hold a Spider?

These guys?

I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?


A spider.

They are awesome.
And they are decidedly not cool.

I cannot explain this.

All I know is, there is family lore about me involving a bathtub, multiple shoes, and one large spider. Also another involving me and a spider on the shower wall and a subsequent non-family-friendly dash through the house, but that is another story . . .

I do not like spiders. I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I know they are kept. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.

So what, oh what, could have ever inspired the picture below? (Warning—graphic picture below. No, not of the shower dash. Worse.)

A refusal to give in to fear.

Not. So. Much.

I know I’ve told the tarantula story before, and some of you have read it. But there’s more. We need to know the power of fear to take our identity from us and keep us from moving toward growth.


We fear too many things that steal our identity.


I forced myself to stop in front of the tarantula cage one day and allow that nice young man to put a spider in my hand because I knew my fear would hold me back from being what God wanted me to be. It sounds silly, I know, to say that fear of spiders can get in the way of being used by God. But whenever fear, whatever the fear, controls your choices, it blocks who you were made to be.

In this case, it would control my choice to lead a team to Costa Rica to minister. In the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I had to face mine or be a hypocrite. After all, they grow some big spiders in Costa Rica. (I never actually saw one in two weeks there. Only a hole where the tour guide told us we could see one if we looked. I did look. I didn’t see.)

The older I get and the more I go through, the more I am adamant – I do not want to give control over to anyone but God. Certainly not an eight-legged critter with a brain the size of . . . I don’t know . . . do spiders have brains? Conventional ones? No clue. But I do know they have to be smaller than human brains, based on fundamental laws of physics.

“Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)

What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.

So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?

Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We’re terribly afraid to step into identity as those children of God, because it might mean risk, conflict, change. We may dread mornings, but at least we know them. Being God’s representative – Stepping into our identity as His children and taking on whatever that means? That’s a scary unknown. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.

Look what I might have missed in Costa Rica?

It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.


Sadly, I could not get over fear of spiders by thinking about them. Pondering their purpose. Looking at photos of them. I just had to jump in and face that stupid fear head on. It’s the only thing that works. And it’s in doing that we realize the anticipation was far worse than the actual execution.

We’re more afraid to start than to follow through. So just start.

Observer or Participant?


Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.

Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.

So the question as we work through Lent and prepare to jump into the power of Easter is: Do we want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do we want to participate in one?

If the latter, how are you being a timid grave tender today? How are you listening to voices that steal your identity by telling you to be less than extraordinary? (Extraordinary is not, by the way, always newsworthy and show stopping. Extraordinary is simply getting yourself off center stage and looking for all kinds of ways to love like Jesus loved.)


God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!


Multiple Pesonalities


One of the interesting things I’ve read in all my study of the Millennial generation is the idea that they can comfortably live with multiple personalities. You can be one person with friends, one on Facebook, and another at work or at home. Personality is fluid, and one adapts to one’s surroundings. Like being a human chameleon. I have to admit, it’s one aspect of the generation I do not understand. I’m trying.


One thing I know, however, is that doing this in one’s spiritual life is not confined to any generation. It’s too often the default in Christian life.

I’ll be a Christian at church.But at work? Well, there are decisions that have to be made there. Sometimes they can’t be made with all that love and honesty stuff. That’s real life.

With friends? I try, but sometimes, they need me to go along. Do what they want to do. Agree with what they believe. It makes everyone happier.

In politics? Hey, I know Jesus said to love my neighbor. But I have to protect myself. And I have a right to say what I want to say, regardless of those other idiots.

Problem: 

So God created<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-27BU" data-link="(BU)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> mankind<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-27BV" data-link="(BV)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> in his own image,

    in the image of God<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-27BX" data-link="(BX)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> he created them;

    male and female<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-27BY" data-link="(BY)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> he created them. (Genesis 1.27)

If I am created in the image of God, that’s who I am at my core. Portraying that image full time was put into my being from the beginning of the universe. It’s what was placed in my heart as my purpose for existing. If I’m trying to do that gig part time? No wonder I’m confused.

It’s like trying to split an atom. We all know what happens when matter is split at its very core. Explosion. Big explosion.

Why do we think it will be any different when we try to split our being into “here I’ll be God’s person” and “here I’ll be something else”?

If I’m fighting who I am at my core, no wonder I can’t commit to being or doing anything long term. No wonder I can’t reach, or even figure out, my goals. No wonder I have no idea what I truly want. I have tried to take apart who I am. And what I’m left with is a messy explosion.

Part Time Identity?


Imagine telling my daughters, “You know, I’m just not feeling the mom thing today. Can I take a break from that and maybe come back sometime later?” Now, I know that occasionally, all moms want to do that. But however we are tempted, it will not change the facts. We are moms. We will still have that relationship, even if we check out of it. It will be really messed up, but it will still be true.

We can’t show up to work as we feel the spirit. We can’t be someone’s child every other Tuesday. We can’t be a real friend only after 8pm.

We can’t be a real image of God because we press ‘like’ and ‘share’ for a picture of Jesus, then go back to gossiping about or downright insulting other people.

We need to be whole people. Only whole people really know who they are. Only whole people can sleep at night without the restless conflict of knowing they were not who they believed themselves to be that day.

Not that we are always what we want to be. There are cringeworthy moments in everyone’s day. But when we seek to be one, whole person in all situations? We’re a lot more likely to act consistently. It’s just easier. Less to remember, which, for me, is a huge incentive right there.

Who Am I?


Image of God. 
Ambassador of God. 
Friend of God. 
Child of God. 

I am all those things. Trying to be some of those things some of the time? Big, explosive mess.

Trying, however imperfectly and slowly, to be that in all places, with all people, at all times? Big, cool breeze of relief. The pieces come together. The purpose appears clearer. When we’re being who we were meant to be, through and through from our core out, that’s peace.  . 

Peace or pieces? I know what I choose.

Going Backward: Getting Our Identity By Doing Instead of Being

I took up the clarinet in 5th grade. My parents probably wished I hadn’t. I did want to learn—really. But how many times can you play “I Love You Truly” in the expected half hour practice before you start to get a little . . . creative? Or a lot bored.
I don’t remember the teacher at all. I don’t even know if it was a man or a woman. Clearly, I was not inspired. As a result, I was also not very good.
Enter 6th grade and Mr. Leafblad. I don’t remember him ever telling me my playing stunk. (It did.) I don’t recall being bullied, or patronizingly cajoled, or shamed into practicing. I do remember practicing. He had such enthusiasm for leading us. (How anyone manages that in a junior high band I will never, ever comprehend.) He had endless encouragement that I could get better. And I did. In fact, I got to be the best clarinet player in junior high.
I became what I was meant to be, a much better player, because the one in charge accepted me as I was, encouraged me, and saw me as a whole human, not a kid with a clarinet I did, or did not, practice often enough. The desire to do the right thing grew out of love for the person asking it of me.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in trying to figure out our identity in God is to do things that make us acceptable. We hope beyond hope that in doing things we can figure out who we are.


We do too many things that offer us identity.

It worked in school. We figured out early where we fit in. We became the smart one, or the good one. Maybe you were the funny one, the pretty one, the social butterfly, or even the victim. Regardless, we learned that if we kept doing the things that made us whatever we were (getting straight A’s, cracking jokes in class) we had an identity. We were secure.
I spent years proving I deserved my spot in the universe by being the smart one. If I dared let it slip, if (when) I found someone smarter than I was, I would have no idea who I was. It was terrifying.
Don’t we do that in church, too? Don’t we often—usually–approach God that way?
I’ll obey God’s rules. I’ll go do that service project. I’ll come to church, take communion, even go all out and volunteer for children’s church. If I do all these good things for God, I’ll be a good person. That means I’ll know who I am. God will accept me.
You want to know something crazy? Jesus doesn’t call me or you to be a good person. Jesus calls us to be His person.  .To get our identity from belonging to him, not from doing good things. 

Mind. Blown.
We do this thing backward.
Once we know who we are because of who He is and what He already calls us, we will want to do good things out of pure love and gratitude. When we try to reverse that? Try to obey in order to force-feel acceptance? We get so messed up.
People who try to do this identity thing backward are the ones you meet who are always right. They know what is and is not “approved.” No one else can do it right. Everyone else is a little bit wrong. They are Never. Satisfied. Why? Because we only know who we are–we only feel accepted ourselves–if we’re better at doing good, being good, or toeing line of truth closer than the other guy. If we have to admit we don’t know, that the lines may be more fuzzy than we thought, then we are no longer the best at doing, thinking, and being right. We don’t know who we are.
People who try to do this identity thing backward also become addicted to approval, doing more and more and more, until they burn out. How many of those have we seen? How many have we been? I see that hand. I raised that hand.
There is another way.
Go the right direction. Take our identity from God, freely given, first. We are chosen, beloved, accepted, known, adopted, and so much more. Then, move into obedience. Let the love for the Great Encourager be the motivator to be what we were meant to be. Not the fear that we’ll let Him down.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled everything to himself.

He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth 

by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, 
separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 
Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. 
As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, 
and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 
But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. 
Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1.19-23)
God is not that teacher who won’t ever give the A. He’s not the boot camp sergeant. He’s the one who sees you as what you will be–without fault. Do you really want a label? Try the ones mentioned above: Blameless. Loved. Reconciled. Friend of God. (Because if you’re no longer an enemy, you’re a friend.)
I’ll never get my identity from doing things. Things are things. They can’t offer anything to my soul. Only a person can do that. The Person—the one who asks us to follow, listen, live in the identity we’ve already been given and let good things flow out of that.

What things are you putting before just knowing God? How might you have to look at those things differently?