Identity and Security for Me and My Children

Who are you? How do you describe yourself to others? For what do you want to be known? And in the stillness when no one else is around, how do you view yourself?

These are the opening questions of my Ephesians study, By His Wounds You Are Healed. I’m thinking of these questions a lot today after watching my young son struggle again with self worth and self confidence. I can tell that there is something in the stillness that plagues him about himself, and no trite answer from me will still the voice in his head that whispers, “You are stupid, incapable, and ugly.” I wrestle anew with answering these taunts in my own heart as I seek to help him with his insecurities.

I have spent much of my life trying to figure out what purposes and accomplishments would give meaning to my life. Since I was a young child, I have watched others’ responses to things I said and did. Longing for affirmation and approval, their reactions determined how I would act next. As I grew up, I admired from afar those who seemed comfortable in their own skin with the confidence to act as they were convicted rather than react in light of others’ actions toward them. Nowhere was this more obvious than my years of middle and high school. I was classically insecure—constantly tweaking my appearance and personality to conform to the popular people—then withdrawing altogether when I could not figure out the magic formula for changing my image with either my peers or myself.

The problem was that I was trying to conform to the wrong image. God has created me to be conformed to His image, and it’s through that process that He shows me His transcendent purposes that give true meaning to my life. I see my son now struggling similarly, albeit just in kindergarten. It’s painful to watch him stop being the sweet little boy I know when he’s comfortable and start putting on a different personality in an attempt to keep up with older kids. It’s even more painful to watch his despair in the aftermath of his failed attempts to blend in.

Maturity brought a lot of clarity to me, and I wish I had understood this dynamic much younger. It was while preparing for my 20th high school reunion my eyes were truly opened. Despite all the life-lessons learned and maturity gained in the last two decades, I found myself falling back into the same old patterns of insecure thinking as I contemplated what it would take to make me walk confidently back into the small town country club where I experienced my last painful high school dance. I joined a gym months in advance so I could lose the baby fat that clung to me years after the birth of my youngest. If I was going to return to the scene of the crime, I wanted to be svelte when I did so. But after five months of faithful exercise, I had not lost a pound. I searched dress stores for the perfect outfit that would reflect the perfect image—to no avail. My husband finally told me to just be myself and wear the kind of clothes that I normally wear. That really scared me. Wear my usual style of clothes? Do not try to project something about myself that is not true?! But that leaves me exposed! I am a bit heavy and most comfortable in jeans and a black shirt. I’m not going to impress anyone that way!

I started to listen to myself. I sounded like an insecure teenager trying to determine her outfit for her senior prom. Was I really that dependent on my DRESS to prop me up to meet these people I had not seen in twenty years? Did I not have anything better than that on which to rely?

I praise God for my study of Ephesians during that season. Though I had read through Ephesians before and heard several sermon series on it as well, my time of study in this season was different. I was aware of my insecurities in a way I had not been before, and Ephesians’ description of my identity in Christ deeply moved me. Ephesians explains my identity and security in Christ. It tells me in detail of the real benefits I have as a daughter of God. It shows me how these benefits equip me to reclaim my identity in Christ. And it draws a straight line from all those gospel truths to the heart of my insecurities today. It showed me how to walk into my 20th class reunion as a secure (though chubby and not particularly fashionable) woman who knows who she is in Jesus.  That evening turned out to be a very sweet time of reconnecting with childhood friends.

I’ve gotten these truths for myself, though God knows how often He has to remind me as I face new and different circumstances that challenge my identity and confidence regularly. Now, I seek to disciple my son in these truths, equipping him to face the mental battles that come with his personality. Perhaps he’ll be good at soccer or excel at math. Maybe one day he’ll be class president or win a scholarship to college. But whatever giftings emerge as he gets older, they won’t quiet the accuser’s voice in the still of the night.

Only Christ can do that.

I John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

13 Responses to Identity and Security for Me and My Children

  1. Ruth in NZ May 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Wendy, this is a wonderful post, and I can relate to so many of the things you wrote about. I know myself, that when I am immersed in God's Word and what He says about me that I am confident to face the opinions and thoughts of others with a biblical perspective. I feel for your heart as you see the same struggles in your son, and I know that you and his Dad are the only ones who can truely know Him and that you will be prayerfully guiding him through these struggles. I have also read your blog enough to know that you have thought through some of the issues of home education and public schooling. I hope it is not interferring or wrong of me to encourage you to consider that the way your son is immmersed in the world's lies may be affecting his heart. All day he is surrounded with the ideas you have rejected above – of our value being found in what others think of us, of our “intelligence” dictating whether we are of worth to others etc. He seems to be very sensitive to those voices. Would there be value in removing him from that for a season and allowing him to learn about the world through scriptures lenses and that of a loving family, not removed from those ideas, but not left to face them on his own for such long periods? I don't know. So I am NOT telling you what to do, or even suggesting this is the Biblical answer. I hope this does not offend. I will pray for you and your husband when you come to mind, that you will have great wisdom in guiding both your little guys through these formative years of their life.

  2. Wendy May 18, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    Ruth, I take no offense at your suggestion. Interestingly, neither my husband or I attended public school. Between the two of us, we at various times were home schooled, attended Christian school, or attended private non-Christian school. None provided the insulation from that voice deep in our hearts.

    Which is not to say that we won't make changes in how we school the boys at some point. I remember in Christian college admiring the self confidence of a guy who came from public school, compared to those of us from tiny Christian schools. Now I understand the school was not the issue, but back then I though public school was the answer to the problems I had seen in private and Christian schools. Funny how my immature mind worked back then.

  3. Ruth in NZ May 19, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    I suspect most of us have “immature minds” when it comes to looking at how the circumstances of our and other people's lives contribute to the situations we face! 🙂 I have to consciously stop myself at times “diagnosing” what someone's issue is and coming up with the “perfect solution”. Life experience and having more than one child are good antidotes to that particular temptation. All our children are so different and it really is about staying close to the Lord and seeking His wisdom in the decisions we make, not finding “the perfect way”, which we then follow and don't have to depend on God at all. Thank you for graciously allowing me to contribute. I agree wholeheartedly that schooling can never be a magic remedy and we will only be disappointed, or proud, if we set it up as such, but I have seen the Lord use it as one instrument in the way He works in young people's lives. Ultimately that is the key isn't it – It is God's work. Blessings on you and your family. Ruth

  4. Anonymous May 19, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    Hi Wendy, I love how God works. I stumbled across your blogs a few months ago, then stopped reading them. Today out of the blue i sat down at my computer and looked up your blog. You have addressed a very similar issue i am struggling with at present.
    The voice deep inside keeps telling me im a failure – I am 32yrs old, can not keep a relationship or job, finding it difficult to find a job, having difficulties with my course im studying in order to retrain and feel useless at church. My passion in life is to serve and glorify God, but at everyturn things keep going wrong. WHY?
    So with no job, no children or husband and no active role of service at church – where does my identity lie. I hang my head in shame.
    Thankfully, while life is still difficult, I can trust God for my identity and future. I dont need to know why this is happening but respond in a manner worthy of my calling, praising God for His Grace to me. I dont know if things will get better in this life, but i will hold onto the truths and promises of God. Thankyou for the bible verses and enncouragement.

  5. Erin May 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Thank you for your transparency. Very thought provoking post.

  6. sheilaryan May 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Wendy, thank you for writing this out. I wonder if I will ever be able to silence the “not good enough” voices. Probably now. But I feel tiny baby steps closer to Jesus as he tells me he is good enough and will overcome all my inadequacies. I appreciate your speaking truth so that we can all benefit.

  7. Libby May 20, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    would love to read your Ephesians study but I live in Spain and it's a bit hard to come by books like that here….any chance that there's a Kindle version coming out soon?

  8. Anonymous May 20, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    What about bookdepository.co.uk. I live in Asia and got it from there. Free shipping too.

  9. Wendy May 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Libby, if the book depository doesn't work for you, I can send you a pdf copy if you email me at theologyforwomen@gmail.com. The kindle version is still not ready.

  10. Flyaway May 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    I can remember always wanting to be a boy because I had an older brother who was the first grandchild on both sides. He was adored and his every move was attention getting. I insisted that I wear his hand me down clothes and was able to dress that way as long as we lived in California and Alaska. Kindly church members would give my mom dresses for me but I would never wear them. Then we moved to Virginia and was forced to wear dresses. My mom allowed me to wear jeans to Sunday School one time but the peer pressure was too much and I wore dresses after that. After I was married and had a strong willed two year old I was driven to Bible study. Then when my children were 11 and 5 I came down with fibromyalgia. That drove me to prayer. God used those things in my life to trust Him that He made me just the way He wanted me. I'm not good at anything much but with God's help my children turned out great, I have a prayer ministry, and when I went back for my high school reunion it was all the nerdy, “unpopular” Christians kids who put on the reunion. Not many of the “popular” kids even attended. I'm a slow learner but I think the best thing we can teach our kids is to love others and love God and only worry about God's will and what He thinks.

  11. Libby May 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    thanks for the tip about the bookdepository.co.uk! But I only could find Wendy's other book “Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives”? Will be emailing you, Wendy.

  12. Krissy May 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    God's grace — this one thing I cannot fathom fully but I can say that it is more than amazing. I feel often insecure every time I see people who have already achieved so much at a young age. I will not deny it that I cannot help sometimes but to want the things that they have. But thinking about my life in eternity with Jesus brings me back to reality. I may not be the best in this world, I may not achieve so much, but I am pretty sure that I will spend my eternity with my God and that is all that matters.

    Thank you very much for sharing your thought, Wendy! It has been a blessing.

  13. Beth Blamick May 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Wendy…I can so relate to this story! And, by the way, I too, am most comfortable in jeans and a (long sleeve!) black shirt! It can certainly take many years to begin to feel comfortable in our own skin and really embrace who we are in Christ…living/acting/dressing…only to please him. Thanks for your transparency and candor.

    Beth at http://www.bbmidlifewife.blogspot.com