The Identity Beneath Your Identities

I was strongly rooted in my singleness. I was content in that season. I had grown up in the same city for thirteen years with many friendships built along the way.  I was a leader among the youth and singles in my church. But then I married my husband, which meant moving out of my parents house for the first time and leaving the rest of my family and friends to move out of state. When I moved from Orlando to Philadelphia I didn’t know anybody unless they were friends of my husband, and everybody knew me as his wife. I had also just graduated college and couldn’t find a good job in my new city. I experienced a multitude of quick transitions at once, and I had an identity crisis. I didn’t know what to do with my life except clean our one-bedroom apartment, wash and dry our clothes at the laundromat, grocery shop, and attempt cooking. Growing into a wife away from home was lonely.

When I did finally find a job I was pregnant two months after I started. I stayed home after our first son was born, and just when I was getting comfortable with the new me, my identity changed again. I had a traumatic birth experience and a battle with baby blues my first month home with my newborn. On top of that I was adjusting to the constant demands of a nursing baby who kept me up at night. I was being stripped of my independence, learning about true sacrifice and the strength of a selfless life.

My identity changed when I moved and became a wife and then a mom…

Read the rest at For the Church >>

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Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image — Book Review

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Living in the broad brushstroke of a reformed and complementarian background, this book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image, comes as a refreshing take on some controversial topics. As a young girl I grew up in a church with some rigid outlines for gender roles inside and outside of marriage (some even promoted extra-biblically in my local church culture.)

Much of the women’s ministry I grew up in was comprised of pink passage topics aimed specifically at women: Titus 2, Proverbs 31, being keepers of the home, the submissive wife, a quiet and gentle spirit, domesticity, and nurturing. All of these topics are still valuable and I strive to adopt them in my life, but it’s dangerous to isolate these “women passages” from the rest of scripture. And of course the rest of scripture still applies to women, because like men we are equally made in God’s image. Hannah Anderson refers to this as being made imago dei, which when literally translated means “in the image of God.”

Anderson uses Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things“, as her general reference point in the larger purpose of the book. What is her larger purpose? I believe it is to unmask the greater purpose of being women made in the image of God — who strive to live in communion with God, communion with others, and be good stewards of creation. A woman’s prime identity is to share in the divine nature of her God. One day we will be complete in this union with our maker as he glorifies us in heaven, but until then our purpose is to become more like Christ here on earth.

According to Anderson we can’t just define and understand ourself by different categories — gender, race, calling — we must come back to the central focus of identity, which is God himself. Instead of making gender roles the starting place for discussion, Anderson believes we must make the starting place of discovery at imago dei. She says:

“When you understand this, when his identity becomes the foundation for your identity, the details will finally make sense.”

This book also makes an appeal to treat identity as a complex issue, not something that can be completely reduced to one or two things: namely, being a wife and mother. We can’t just be satisfied with haggling over roles, but we must come back to the foundation of the basic questions of identity: “Who am I and why am I here?” When we get this straight Anderson says,

You will finally be free to live beyond the roles and labels and expectations because you will finally be free to live in the fullness of God himself.”

I don’t think Anderson has deserted the traditional biblical womanhood that we see in scripture, she is just giving it a fuller and deeper treatment. She says,

“We make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.”

She does a tremendous job of bringing our focus to the perfect image bearer who lived, died, and rose for us, so our identities could heal from the brokenness around us and in us. It is through Christ alone that we can fulfill imago dei once again like in the Garden of Eden. Through Christ we can better image God through how we love, give, and learn.

This book deeply impacted me in how I view myself — as a person first and foremost — before God and others. It also showed me how great and glorious our God is in his goodness, wisdom, sovereignty, power, and love, and how he is all of his attributes unified at all times — God is a living paradox. We can’t dissect him into categories; he is much bigger than our human categories. I was also challenged to more fully “partake of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) in Christ; I was challenged to embrace his loving providence for my life. Like on page 139 when Anderson says:

“Providence is the intricate combination of God’s power and His love working together to bring about the best for his children — working together to make them exactly who they are meant to be.”

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book and walked away wanting to worship God. I think Anderson has done that in this book, and that is why I highly recommend it to you. She does a powerful job of showing how we as humans are truly made for more.

“We have all forgotten what we really are.” — G.K. Chesterton

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” — C.S. Lewis

Review of Wendy Alsup’s Bible Study in Ephesians

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Peace through grace. This is how Wendy Horger Alsup would summarize her bible study through Ephesians. A phrase she borrows from theologian and scholar John Stott.

According to Alsup’s Introduction in By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity,Ephesians defines my identity and security in Christ.” Alsup is one of the women forging the new path ahead for Bible doctrine books written for women by women.

She encourages women to not just pick up books on women specific topics written by women authors, but to delve deeper into a true and sound study of a book of the Bible. By bringing her feminine touch to the realm of Bible doctrine, she aims to help women apply the truth in Ephesians to their lives. She is also a wife and mother and occasionally touches on those applications as well.

Maybe you’ve been to a ladies bible “study”, where it’s really more snacking, giggling, and conversing about life than actual studying. Maybe you’ve been to some that are more emotionally driven, where women ask themselves how a particular passage makes them feel. Well, this study is not the same. Alsup takes on historical context, original intent, and examines each verse and chapter against the message of Ephesians in its entirety. Alsup sums up Ephesians by saying,

 “The Apostle Paul is intent that we understand the blessings that have been eternally secured for us by Christ despite our unworthiness, and from understanding those unconditional blessings, we then learn obedience.” 

The book is broken down into 4 sections that each cover roughly 2 chapters of Ephesians, which is then broken down by every couple verses. The actual biblical text is included prior to Alsup’s commentary, and each chapter has space for reflections. There are discussion questions in the back of the book as well.

My women’s group at church just finished using this study, and I think it facilitated great discussion. It personally affected me to seek greater humility from the Lord. Also, it challenged me to love people in my life in the way Christ loves me. Namely, to be more forbearing, tolerant, and patient in how I love my family. If it can change me, it can change you.

Housewife Theologian Book Review

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Today housewife has become a dirty word. In Christian circles it has sometimes become a shameful thing. We can be embarrassed to admit our occupation to others. Our culture doesn’t see much value and meaning in being a housewife in comparison with working outside the home. A housewife is second rate; uneducated and imprisoned.

In her book, Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary, Aimee Byrd attempts to redeem the word housewife and transform it into something glorious; and something deeper than we make it. Byrd encourages us to think. Our days are not just about laundry and dishes, but should be rich in theology. What we know about God should be apart of the ordinary in our lives; what we know and believe should affect how we live. Byrd describes it this way:

“Truly Christian thinking involves an eternal perspective on our daily matters and contemplation of how they fit into the dogma of the drama in which God has cast us.”

Byrd explains how our femininity, beauty, identity, sexuality, self-image, sin, and attitudes are all out workings of our theological thoughts. This is so important in this day and age as we are surrounded by false teaching that impedes the calling the Lord has given us as women. Byrd teaches us how to not be ‘gullible housewives,’ who believe anything that sounds nice, but to be sharpened in our pursuit of Christian thinking.

Self-Image and Identity

Some of my favorite portions in the book cover self-image and identity. These two issues are typically areas of deception for women. A lot of the lies our culture promotes about these two topics sound pretty truthful. Today you can hear people talking about finding themselves. Feeling lost, like they have no purpose; trying to figure out who they are. It’s not just non-Christians that feel this way, but many Christians.
My only question about these feelings are: Where are you right now?

One of my heroes, Jim Elliot, says this,

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

Wherever God has you right now, whatever place, position, or season, is exactly God’s will for you. If we examine our doctrine and truly believe God is sovereign, then we know where we are and what we are doing now is God’s will for us. We don’t have to travel the world or take a pottery class to find ourselves. If we are in the Word of God, we know who we are and who we belong to.

I love the quote from C.S. Lewis in Byrd’s book. It truly summarizes this issue in our culture of finding self:

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end . . . and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Identity and Idolatry

When it comes to our identity as women, idolatry is not far behind. It’s easy for us to make ultimate things out of good things, as Byrd describes it. It’s also easy for us to find something to attach ourselves to; something that identifies us. Then we end up looking to that thing as our source of happiness. When it’s taken away we respond in sin.

If we are studying and thinking through God’s Word and taking part in Church fellowship we will be setting ourselves up for idol exposing and killing. What are those things that are not Christ that we are looking to fulfill us? To make us happy? To give us purpose? Maybe it’s having a successful career? Getting rich? Maybe being a good housewife? Maybe it’s having a job outside of the home or not having a job outside the home? Maybe it’s looks?

Maybe we need to look for Christ to identify us. We do that when we are faithful housewife theologians who study the Word of God with rigorous discipline and humble prayers for grace. We are true to ourselves (as our culture calls it) when we immerse ourselves in Christ. We follow our dreams (again a modern cultural saying) when we discover the ultimate dream that is Christ himself.

He is our treasure and pearl of great price. Christ defines us as women and shows us that true value, worth, and meaning is found in losing ourselves and finding Him.

“So, What Do You Do?”

You’re at a party. You don’t know many people, so you strike up a conversation with someone over the punch bowl. You ask, “So what do you do?” The conversation then rolls to talk of occupation, work, study…whatever it is you “do.”

It’s a common ice-breaker question with an unintentional and underlying meaning. Basically, the person asking the question is seeking to identify you with something, and in our culture we are identified by what we do. Who we are is what we do. It’s as simple as that.

Identity and Success

This is why so many in our culture are highly driven for success. If our identity is wrapped up in what we do, then we need to do a heck of a lot and do it better than everyone else. Why would anyone settle for the bottom of the ladder when they can climb to the top? Why would anyone drop their career to stay at home with their children? Why would someone pass up overtime to spend time with their family? It’s not wrong to climb to the top of the ladder, keep a career with children, or work overtime. But when you are completely absorbed in it and consistently put it above everything else, your work has become who you are.

The reason our culture absorbs themselves in their careers, and is always running towards success, is because they have nothing else. Each success they earn is all they have to live for in this world. Everyone is building their own mini-kingdom on this earth. They don’t know there is another kingdom to invest in or another world to live for. The emptiness they feel (or are unaware of, but is still present) drives them to do more. Each accomplishment in life (personal or work related) never satisfies, which is why they have to look for the next one to conquer.

A Christian Mindset

Yet, if you are a Christian your identity is not in what you do or have accomplished, but in what has already been done for you. This is why we can rest and not “do” so much, this is why we don’t need to feel inadequate if we don’t have a degree, or feel intimidated by people who have much earthly success. Our identity is secure; it’s not based on a fluctuating economy, a wavering income, or our tentative position in a company. Who we are is who Christ is. We are one with Christ who is one with the Father. Our greatest and most important accomplishment in life — salvation — has been achieved by Jesus Christ; He is our success story.

Jesus is the perfect model of true success; a life emptied of self and full of God and others. All of his accomplishments were acts of love and service. When we give our lives to Christ we not only believe and accept he died on the cross and rose from the dead for us, but we believe and accept all of his accomplishments in His life as our own. His success becomes our success. And in this success we cannot boast, because we didn’t earn it nor do we deserve it.

We have been set free from our culture’s version of identity in success. Now we can live our lives in true success: dying to self and living for God and others. This is building the Kingdom of God on earth, and the perfect fulfillment of His Kingdom will be found in heaven. Our culture lives for their own mini-kingdom that they build themselves. We are apart of something much bigger and more fulfilling; a Kingdom not made with human hands, but bought with flesh and blood. Christ’s broken flesh and spilled blood bought my success.