distorted images

distorted images of perfection

I slumped in front of the counselor with a full-on ugly cry, confused and struggling. A few short months after my ex-husband and I had separated, my counselor asked me how I saw myself. I didn’t know how to answer her.

Shamefully, apart from my ex-husband, I grappled to define who I was. She challenged me to discover my identity as a Christian woman and suggested a book to help me understand more about who I am in Christ. I love Christ. I do, though I’ve always just called Him Jesus. But even with all of my years in church, my love for Jesus, and my personal study of scripture, I was finding it hard to wrap my head around who I was in Him. Honestly, with no offense to Christ, I wanted to be “enough” on my own. I didn’t want to have to identify with a man anymore in order to feel complete.

I really did love Jesus, but I felt compelled to know and value who I was all by myself.

I say this gingerly and with utmost respect because I sincerely honor and revere the Lord. But having made misguided assumptions for thirty-seven years that another man’s approval made me whole, left me broken. In the southern Christian circles in which I was born and raised, I still felt the subtle sense that being one man’s daughter, then another man’s wife was a sign of validation. On top of that, my addiction for approval drove me to please a man at every stage of my life—whether it was my dad, a boyfriend, a husband, a pastor…or God. So at the end of my marriage, as scared as hell as I was to be on my own, and as much as I loved Jesus, I felt compelled to know and value who I was all by myself.

So I had some candid conversations with Jesus. I wanted a little freedom to figure out who I was and to decide if I was comfortable being in Christ. I wanted to see for myself if I could be alright on my own without a man to approve, fix, or lead me. I was concerned that Jesus would be disappointed in me for questioning how I belong to Him, but He didn’t seem threatened by it at all. Jesus is a man of faith, not fear. He is man enough to handle any problems or questions I may have without taking them personally. So when I wrestled with who I was and how I fit in with Him, He freely afforded me a safe place to be messy and real, and even wrong.

He let me be the unedited version of myself and find my own sense of value and self-worth.

While I sincerely sought to rebuild my life, I felt His quiet, confident love near me. Without judgment, He let me be. He didn’t abandon me, nor did He impose Himself on me. He didn’t try to fix me or make me His own. He let me be the unedited version of myself and find my own sense of value and self-worth. Then, He embraced all that. Without my realizing, He modeled to me how any man should love me and how I should love myself. Wholly. Without perfection or performance, I am more than enough on my own.

So who am I in Christ? It’s not at all what I thought. It’s neither about possession, nor perfection. I do not belong to Him in the sense that I lose my personal identity. Nor am I under His thumb to control. I’m in His heart and on His mind. He believes in me. And I, in Him. Our relationship is reciprocal. I am His and He is mine. I do not have to measure up in order to be loved. His love is perfect, so I don’t have to be.

Somewhere along the way, I proved what He already knew:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.*

In my pursuit of authenticity, I inadvertently set aside perfection and performance. I let go of my old religious thinking and perceptions—of myself and of God—and all things have become new. That’s who I am in Christ, new. A better version of who God created me to be in the first place. The pressure I once felt to perform in order to earn His acceptance and love has been replaced with peace. Peace about who I am all by myself, and peace that I am wholly loved.

*II Corinthians 5:17

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