Letting go of my standards and expectations and embracing God’s truth
Who are you? It sounds simple enough, but if you’ve ever been asked this question before, you know just how daunting of a task it is to answer it because of the deeper question that lies within it: what truly defines me? Is it my major, ethnicity, age, political beliefs, skills, passions, awards, hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, Myers-Briggs type or Enneagram number?
I’ve found that whenever I’m presented with the question of “Who are you?” my mind jumps to several of the items from the list above, trying to figure out which one is the most accurate portrayal of myself. This question leaves my identity — which until then seemed secure — into one big question mark. I am left wondering what truly defines me and which aspects of my life and personality are important enough to include in the picture of Megan Fiona Wilhelm.
I grew up as a Christian and started following Christ when I was 14. My attendance at church and youth group hardly ever strayed from perfect and now I attend Azusa Pacific University, a Christian school.
With this kind of upbringing, phrases like “My identity is in Christ alone,” “You are a daughter of the King” and, “We are children of God” were said to the point of becoming devoid of all meaning. I accepted them, and on a surface level I believed them to be true. But I never sat and wrestled with these truths. I never took the time to sit and meditate on what these words truly mean and what they mean for me as a Christian.
Around October of last year, I discovered that I didn’t find my identity in Christ; I found it in my accomplishments, my performances and in other people’s opinions of me. Though I sang songs in church about how Jesus paid it all, I continued to strive towards proving myself. Though I listened to sermons which reminded me that Jesus is enough, the pull to achieve and accomplish prevailed. Though I read Bible verses that spoke of how much Jesus loves and cares for me, such as Romans 5:8 and 8:38-39, I cared more about the way I appeared to classmates and professors.
Underneath it all was my perfectionism. My innate and constant desire to live up to unrealistic standards is a driving force in my life. Each time I had fallen short of my idea of perfection — whether this was saying the right thing in class, never missing a quiet time, getting A’s on all my assignments or keeping a consistent sleep schedule — I felt as if I had somehow failed.
When I continued to find my identity in failed attempts to be the perfect student, perfect daughter, perfect sister, perfect friend, perfect disciple, I found something to be unhappy with every day. My imperfections turned into insecurities, which turned into fears. Instead of walking in God’s truth, I was walking in the lie that I had to measure up, that my writing and speaking abilities defined me, that what others think matters more than what God thinks.
God does not call us to live this way. God wants us to see what great value we are to him.
Pastor David Marvin from Watermark Community Church in Dallas explains that we know how much something is worth by what someone else is willing to pay for it. Of how much value are we that God was willing to give his one and only, dear, beloved Son to pay the ransom for our sins so that we may get to spend eternity with the Father in heaven? God values us. So much so that he gave up what was most valuable: the life of Christ.
Because Christ is my savior, I get to rest in the truth of knowing that I will never be enough. I can let go of the expectations I have for myself and simply rest in the fact that nothing I do or don’t do will change who I am or how God sees me. He is steady and unchanging, therefore my identity is as well.
It is a daily battle to recognize that my worth, value and identity are found solely in Christ. I have it written on a letterboard above my desk. Each time I speak up in class, I have to remind myself that what my classmates think of me does not define me. Each time I fall short of my own expectations, I have to remind myself that there is grace in everything.
Although it’s a relief to no longer depend on performance, accomplishments and opinions to define me, it is also humbling. On the days when I receive overwhelming praise for my writing, score A’s on all my essays or speak with perfect eloquence in class, my identity is no less rooted in Christ than it is on the days when I feel less than.
Knowing and believing my identity is fully rooted in Christ lets me walk in a humble confidence. I know my worth and value and I’m confident in my abilities, but I also realize that I can’t do it all. I can embrace my shortcomings knowing that because Jesus is perfect, I don’t have to be.
Whether I fail at every single task I set out to do or find success in each of my endeavors, my inherent worth and value do not change. I am not my writing nor my grades, my shortcomings nor my triumphs. I am a daughter of the King; I am a child of God; and my identity is in Christ alone. I no longer throw these phrases around without second thought to their meaning and power. I say them because finally, I believe them to be true.