By now you have likely heard me refer to myself as a “recovering striver.” Recently I heard a woman say that her friends lovingly call her a “human doer” instead of a “human being” and internally I began to jump up and down, shouting, “me too!”
Over the past few years, God has gently and lovingly showed me that His design for me all along has been to exist as a human being and not as a human doer.
There is beauty in being because the truth is, He doesn’t need me to do anything. He is the great Creator, Architect, Author, Gardener, Physician and Overseer of all that exists. He invites me to co-labor and co-create with Him because He loves me, and this work brings my soul alive.
Yet being with Him is what keeps my soul alive.
It is in the moments where I lay down my work and sit in His presence that I find rest and peace.
But man, doing seems to come so much more naturally to me. Anyone else out there? I can measure my “doing” because it can be quantified, defined and checked off a list.
Our pastor helped shed some light on why many of us cling to work so tightly. He said, “it’s hard to stop working when we’ve given our work the power to define us.”
I struggled with this big time when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom and stop teaching in the classroom. Without my job, I didn’t feel like I knew who I was. And now as a stay-at-home mom, who writes and teaches yoga on the side, I still find myself looking to work to define me.
It happened just this week when my friend started a group text for life updates and asked, “Dev how are you?” Without hesitation, I responded with my yoga class schedule and a status report on my kids. I included nothing about the state of my heart, or what’s been good or what’s been hard. Nope, I immediately responded with my some of my “jobs” ….teaching yoga and raising kids. Subconsciously, I still catch myself looking to work to define me.
It leads me to ask, “without work, who am I?”
I think oftentimes, without even realizing it, we are using work to cover up the false messages we’ve come to believe about ourselves. For me I’m trying to disprove the false identity that I’m “too much.” Too bossy, too loud, too pushy. As a mom, I try to be friendly, sensitive and flexible to please the other adults in my circles (sometimes at the expense of my own needs) and prove that I’m not too much.
I also fear being weak, so I look to my ability as a mom to to prove that I’m strong and capable. Maybe you fear looking unintelligent, so you use work to prove you are smart. Or if you fear being alone, you use work to measure if you are likable and needed. I do that too.
I find myself thinking that if my kids are safe, have their needs met and are developing Christ-like characteristics then I must be a strong and capable mom. But it’s not long before I discover the cracks in my theory. For starters, my kids sometimes reflect my parenting, but most of the time they reflect their own life experiences. Like whether they’ve had a good night’s sleep, or a big enough snack or whether or not they are in a crazy developmental growth spurt.
My point is, my work is a poor barometer for measuring my value and defining what kind of a mom and therefore person I am.
Work can’t fill the hole in my heart that wants to be fully known, called by name and told that I’ve completed a job well done.
And for this reason, I must cling to this truth:
Who we are outside of work matters.Ben Foote, Flatirons Community Church
In other words, who I am aside from my work and the roles and relationships attached to it, matters.
My identity as myself matters to God.
In Isaiah 43:1 God promises us:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
Work was never meant to define us. But if you’re like me, maybe you have allowed it to in small or big ways, depending on the day. On hard days, work is the thing tearing you down and on good days it seems to matter too much.
You can tell it’s defining you when…
- You struggle to think of who you are outside of work.
- Your emotions are mostly dictated by your success or failure at work.
- You compare yourselves to other people to measure your own success.
God alone has the right to define us. He created us, knows us by name and in the greatest act of love our world has ever seen, He sent Jesus to ensure that we would never be separated from Him again.
We can rest in the identity God has given us. And when we rest, we simply sit in the presence of God, stripped of what we do, other’s opinions of us, or their responses to us.
In the stillness of being with God, it is just me and God.
And this is what it means to be a human being.
I’ll admit, it’s not easy to do most of the time. But as God has been gentle with me I’m trying to be gentle with myself. When I catch myself looking to motherhood or other external voices to define me, I pause and I notice. By noticing, I cue my brain and my heart that something needs to shift.
In the moment that I notice, I try to intentionally shift my gaze upward. I stop moving, I stop doing and I listen for the still quiet voice that says, “you are mine and you are loved.” And I exhale.
God pursues you in the same way.
So the next time you have a defeating day and the self critical voices become louder than God’s voice of love. Try and notice.
Or on the day you find yourself attributing a big success more to yourself than to God, begin to notice.
May you remember that who you are to God far outweighs any act you do for Him or with Him.
I offer you the same words my church shared with us two weekends ago. Allow yourself to be with God as you read these truths from Scripture about your God- given identity.
- You are forgiven. (Romans 8)
- You are free. (Galatians 5:1)
- You are treasured and valued. (Deuteronomy 7:6)
- You are here on purpose and for a purpose. (Psalm 139)
- You are loved. (John 3:16)
- You are worth dying for. (Romans 5:7-9)
May these promises fill the God-sized hole in your heart, that only He can fill. And may they bring you peace that who you are in the present moment matters to the One who created you.