Identity is a word I’ve wrestled with and dissected for years. I’ve written about it as I’ve shared my journey of adoption and reunion, and I’ve thought I had a good understanding of it until now.
Titles are a funny thing. They carry a lot of weight and influence. The title of mom or dad carries immense responsibility. There are certain expectations that come with titles like “best friend” or “boss” or “coworker.”
People, by sin and nature, disappoint. Parents and spouses will fall short. Addiction, dishonesty, anger, anxiety, judgement, favoritism, abandonment, mental illness and even careers can rattle or destroy a family. Friends can hurt you. Even those with the best intentions can screw up and cause deep wounds. I’ve been that friend before.
Titles have been a struggle for me. People in my life with titles that carry weight and influence have hurt me. I’ve expected clarity with my adoption to heal wounds. “Mother” is a title that carries the most weight. I’ve felt less-than as I grappled with truths and lies within my adoption story. I’ve wondered why I wasn’t good enough to stay with my birth mom. I’ve experienced hurt from my mom who raised me as she battled mental illness and addiction. Now I hold the same title, and with it comes fear and self-doubt.
I’ve expected fairytales in a world of brokenness and I’ve set out to please the unsatisfiable. People I love have been set up to fail because of the unrealistic expectations I place on their titles. In the same way, I’ve set myself up to fail.
Selflessness, strength, service and sacrifice are just a few of the expectations I’ve placed on the shoulders of people who were never meant to carry them. I’ve carried them myself as I’ve grown into the title of wife and mother. I’ve destined myself to fail by trying to embody those titles perfectly and carrying them alone.
But there’s one title I’ve found that outweighs them all, and offers the most freedom.
Above any title I’ll possess on this earth and any title others hold who have influence in my life, daughter (or son) is the only one with eternal implications.
The power of first identifying as my Lord and Savior’s daughter is immeasurable. The word daughter means I’m never alone. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
An important truth stopped me in my tracks at the Woman conference recently: “My identity is established in the Almighty.”
It is not established by the titles I hold. It is not established by my relationships, by my successes or by my failures. It is not established by worldly legacies. It’s not established by what has been, but by what is and what will be.
Finding my identity as the daughter of a King means finding freedom from worldly hurt and expectation. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The title of Daughter makes way for freedom from fear: fear of failing as a mom, fear of disappointing my spouse, fear of rejection at work, or the fear of being hurt by others.
But freedom is not something I can just stumble upon and put in my pocket. Like Paul told the Corinthians, it’s in the Spirit of the Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, freedom and forgiveness go hand in hand. It’s through God’s grace and forgiveness that I find freedom, and I am charged to extend that to others. By doing so, I am released from the control titles have over me. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Similarly, in the New Testament, we can find that truth repeated, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
I also think it’s fitting to read those verses with the word forgiveness in the place of love. Forgiveness covers over a multitude of sins. Forgiveness releases others of responsibility to pay you back for their transgressions. It means one less thing for you to carry; one less expectation to hold over someone. Psalm 86:5 says, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Abounding in love… forgiving and good… Christ’s character in a nutshell. I want to be like that.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
My identity as God’s daughter will be the most important identifier I hold on to and the most important part of my character for others. It is through Him that I might be successful holding titles that carry weight, like wife and mother. Likewise, it is through Christ that I find freedom from the weight others carry. I strive to embody grace and forgiveness, so I can offer freedom to others. It’s cyclical. I am given forgiveness, and I extend that gift to others. I pour out what fills me up.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”