Twelve years ago, I took my then-two-year-old son in for a haircut. Just a trim. He needed more than that, but I wasn’t ready. We had just moved back to California from Texas, and I had recently been told by an outspoken neighbor that my furniture didn’t fit my house and my clothes didn’t make the cut. I just needed to hold on to something familiar for a minute, like my son’s bouncy blonde curls. As I emphatically explained to the stylist they weren’t to be chopped, I watched in horror as they fell to the floor.
I drove home in tears and then crumpled to the ground much like those curls. “I need another baby,” was the only way I knew how to verbalize to my husband the inadequacy that hit me all at once. I had not been without a child either on the way, on the breast, on the hip, or hanging on to my leg in eight years. And although I knew that my identity was supposed to be solely in Christ, somewhere along the way, even while being in full-time ministry, I had managed to be marked by motherhood instead. Somehow a loss of locks meant a loss of babies, which left me at a loss for words in a season where I wondered, “Who am I now?”
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” What does it mean to be crucified with Christ and find our identity only in Him? It doesn’t mean we will physically hang on a cross one day, but there is a death to our old way of life. Max Lucado describes this glorious exchange as every dark moment of our lives written on a piece of paper that’s placed between Christ’s hand and the cross, and that nail goes all the way through, our sins forgiven and forgotten forever. True repentance isn’t just asking for forgiveness; there must also be a willingness and desire for change. It is the surrendering of one’s own control.
All self-recognition attempts at being defined by or finding worth, acceptance, and belonging in anything other than in a relationship with Jesus are building blocks to separation from the One to whom we long to be joined. Self preservation causes us to build walls we hide behind, but God says, “I see your loneliness, your brokenness, your pain, and I still want you as my very own.” We did nothing to earn this beautiful, unfathomable, all-in adoption. We can do nothing to lose it. That’s more than our feeble attempts at control can offer, and yet we try and hold on to so much.
Some of us may take pride in being the homeschooling parent of a large family, or a working mom who can juggle job and home and still raise the star athlete and the state spelling bee champion. Some of us are so tired from toddlers that we just want to make it to the grocery store to lose ourselves for two hours in the magazine section. Some of us are so frantic to paint the perfect picture that when life pops wildly out of its container like a jack-in-the box, we scramble to stuff it all back in. Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes letting go is where we find strength.
Jesus was the most secure man who ever walked the earth. John 13:3 says that He “knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” He knew where He was from, where He was going, and what He was supposed to do in between.
When your identity comes from knowing who you belong to and where you’re headed— when it’s hidden in Christ and you now live attuned to His will—you can release your insatiable need to fix and rescue; you can find the gumption to put your toddler back in his own bed five times a night and the wisdom to love on your depressed teen; you can stop worrying about what the neighbors think and know that being a parent significantly marks a part of your life but doesn’t define the whole of your life; and you will be glad that people think you are “only a mom” or “only a dad” as you strategically, with stealth-like precision, raise a generation of children who will know the whisper of their Maker and do great things for the kingdom as their lives are hidden in His.