Unraveled Identity

When my husband first told me he wanted to go to seminary I threw up in my mouth a little bit. This was a calling he was sure of for himself but a calling for which I did not yet feel prepared.

I did not grow up in a family that attended church every Sunday or attended VBS in the summers nor did we have family devotions around our dinner table and the only way I knew how to pray was “now I lay me down to sleep.”

I have struggled with a difficult past marked with depression, unhealthy relationships with men, partying and I have experienced great loss through the passing of my mother from cancer as a young teenager.

Back then at twenty-three, in a little four door Camry on my way to St Louis, I did not believe that God could use me in His church.

Back then I did not see myself, this girl with an imperfect past, being able to ever connect with faithful church attenders on Sunday morning serving a perfect God.

This calling felt too big.

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I followed my husband to seminary anyway like a faithful solider not quite ready for battle but on the inside I struggled against the inner voices from my past that whispered I just wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t like I believed it to be from 2 Corinthians 5:17: if you are in Christ you are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.

The new had come, I did have a changed life, but it was also so interwoven with many past experiences and voices. Somehow the old would have to begin to unravel from the new.

Walking through this story has been quite a journey. A journey against myself. A journey so challenging it would fail if God was not in it with me.

I have had some unraveling to do especially when it comes to my identity.

I was being called to the beginning of a journey against myself where I would constantly be required to put off the old and use the new to redefine the woman God was making to be in Christ.

It wasn’t long before the inner voice became coupled with the outer voices from others who were surrounding me.

I will never forget one of my first interactions with another seminary wife, “Wow, I’ve never met anyone like you… someone from total darkness.”

In that moment, whether that woman was joking or not, I stopped putting on what was true about me from the promises of scripture and I put on the scarlet letter of “the girl from total darkness” and I never wanted to step foot on the seminary campus again.

Just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness became the anthem of my season in seminary. I let that moment mark me and this just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness let the inner voices win.

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I spent three years trying to distance myself as far away from seminary as possible. I didn’t want anyone else to know the real me. I chose to mark myself with that just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness scarlet letter.

What happened to me while we lived in St. Louis was painful. I was crippled by my anthem. I wept. I was sick to my stomach almost every day. While my husband was thriving I was dying, carrying this heavy scarlet letter around my neck.

I still appeared to be a good solider on the exterior. But on the inside I was barely breathing.

It wasn’t until one morning on my couch when the words from Matthew 11 appeared on the page of my hot pink Bible in technicolor. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I thought about how long I had been carrying the weight of this interwoven old and new. How long I had walked with this just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness scarlet letter around my neck breathless and searching for air?

How long had I carried this burden alone and not shared the yoke with my Risen Lord?

He makes the burden light when I share it with Him.

Matthew 11 helped to let the unraveling of my identity begin.

The thread started to pull and I felt like I could breathe.

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This moment happened in our last weeks in seminary. It took me too long to realize I was not bearing the just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness identity alone. The one sharing the yoke with me was Jesus. The One Who had overcome death itself.

If He could overcome death He could help me overcome the voices.

So the unraveling of my identity in Christ began as I started to put off the old patterns and ways of viewing myself and I began to put on the new.

I started to challenge the just-not-good-enough-girl-from-total-darkness label with the label of the deeply-loved-completely-accepted-image-bearer-of-The-Risen-Lord-girl-from-total-darkness.

(I mean, I need to stay true to my roots, right?)

You can’t appreciate where you are if you forget where you came from- so the girl from total darkness stays…for now.

I know this journey of the unraveling of my identity is Christ is not over. I know the thread is just beginning to unravel.

I can’t say I feel completely equipped even now to serve alongside my husband but I can say the idea now longer causes nausea. This
deeply-loved-completely-accepted-image-bearer-of-The-Risen-Lord-girl-from-total-darkness knows God calls unlikely people in His Great Story Of Redemption.

No matter what the past, the inner voices, or the audible voices might be whispering I can hush them with truth because Christ, the One who ultimately has called me, is walking alongside me sharing this burden.

In Him I am…

Deeply Loved.
Completely Accepted.
Image bearer of the Risen Lord
Girl From Total Darkness

What is your identity? Are you letting the new unravel from the old?

8 thoughts on “Unraveled Identity

  1. Ken McAfee says:

    Rachel, Great post. I think that the “girl(s)-from-total-darkness” have much to teach the “ghetto christians” about God’s grace, because otherwise we may not know just how wide his grace is and how transformative the power of grace can be in the lives of believers. I would also suggest that you are not just “*from* total darkness” but “raised from*” or “*called out of*” and, since we all were ‘elected’ before the dawn of time, our identity is not defined by the place from whence we came, but the place to which we are going. God bless you guys!

    Like

  2. akstrieder says:

    I just love you a lot. Remembering Muny conversations over dinner in a car during a rainstorm pertaining to this. Redeemed how we love to proclaim it…His love is the theme of our song!

    Like

  3. akstrieder says:

    I just love you a lot! Remembering a Muny conversation over dinner in a car during a rainstorm pertaining to this. Redeemed how WE love to proclaim it, His love is the theme of our song!

    Like

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