Nothing in life is as romantic as I pictured it.
As a child, I imagined adulthood would grant me the freedom to eat only ice cream and to buy whatever I wanted. As an adult, I know a sugar crash will tank my workday, the carbs will go straight to my muffin top, and those plastic cards have real money attached to them.
And then there’s the actualities of marriage, homeownership, and coworker dynamics. Romanticized views of our futures are rarely tethered to reality.
- Motherhood is a high and noble calling. But no one wrestles a screaming poopy toddler to the change table and thinks, “Wow, THIS is what I was made for!”
- Marriage is a gift from God. But it requires more sacrificial diligence and hard work than any romantic comedy would suggest.
- Careers evolve, promotions fade away, and family roles change, shifting our professional and personal endeavours in ways we never imagined at our high school graduation.
The harder moments of daily life — you know, the ones that don’t make the cut for Instagram — can leave even normally contented individuals questioning or resenting their life choices, on the search for greener shades of grass.
I’m sure most of us would welcome a bit more romance and adventure. We can relate to the desire for self-confidence, a sense of purpose, identity, and meaning in life. But a romanticized view of the journey can cause us to look for identity or fulfillment in the wrong places, forgetting the good we already have right in front of us.
So, here are four truths I’ve learned to keep track of me in all the mess of real life:
1. We are whos, not whats.
Our sense of self is not tied to what we do, but to who we are. We are children of God, beloved daughters and sons of the King of Heaven. And because of that, we’re part of what the Bible talks about in 1 Peter 2:9 — a royal priesthood, a chosen people, people called from darkness into light. Out of this awareness of who we are, we then serve and lead in the whats of our lives as spouses, parents, executives, volunteers, etc.. We are more than what we do. We always have been.
2. We receive identity, we don’t achieve it.
The things we do in life don’t add up to equal a sense of self. Who we are is based on what God says about us, not what we can do for Him, do for ourselves, or do for anyone else.
As a textbook Type A achiever, this understanding has brought me so much freedom. My identity remains secure even if — or inevitably when — my performance plummets or my life roles and circumstances change. We don’t earn our value. Christ has already determined it.
3. Self-awareness comes after God-awareness.
If we ever lose sight of ourselves it’s because we’ve lost sight of God, who He is, and who He says we are. As I talk about in A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, “Lasting confidence can’t come from a sense of self; it must come from an awareness of God.” I’m all for loving ourselves, but I think the best way we can love ourselves is to first receive love from God.
As I rediscover who I am through the lenses of how He sees me, my self-awareness comes not just from my own limited experience or perspective; it is built on words of love and truth that come from my Creator God who loves me better than I could ever love myself. His grace for us is both deeper and kinder than our inner critics.
4. We are called. Yes, even still.
Romans 11:29 tells us that God’s gifts and call are irrevocable. We didn’t forfeit our life purposes with that last career move or by starting a family. What the call of God looks like in our lives might be different than what we initially pictured, and it will take different shapes in different seasons; but His genuine call and invitation remain constant for those who respond to Him.
Let’s remember that our grandest calling is not just what we’re called to do, but who we are called to be. The messiest things in life have a way of drawing us closer to God and allowing us to discover the identity we’ve been searching for all along.