About a month after I lost my job, I was visiting with a friend I met at a mom’s group from church. I was going on and on about being okay with the decision, excited to find other work, or going back into teaching. It was like my mouth was rushing to catch up with the ideas racing through my mind. Like an addict trying to explain how much control they have when everyone knows they need rehab.
Without hesitation, she touched my arm and with a wrinkled brow she said, “Jenn, you are so much more than that.”
I was stunned, and didn’t really know what to think. She looked at me with such pity and sincerity – all I did was look at her and say, “I…I don’t know what that means.”
Her statement resonated with me and it immediately threw me into a tailspin. I began questioning my identity.
The Identity Issue
It seems to be all the rage now, people talking about finding themselves, getting to know their true self, looking for the most real version of themselves, going on yoga retreats to meditate and become one with nature again. No matter what the search, it often begins with a crisis. A sudden change that tips their world upside down (or right side up).
I know mine did.
We will try to grab for anything that will bring back that same sense of fulfillment and credibility; a new job, a new relationship, a new environment.
But I want to challenge that search: I don’t think it’s so much that we forget who we are, but that we need a much deeper purpose for our being.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
Most of my struggle surrounding this lifestyle change was rooted in lies I was believing about myself. For example, I believed my worth was directly tied to my level of education. This even translated into my ability to get things done. “I’m a smart girl,” I thought. “This should be easy.” Then the tasks piled on and time frames shrunk until I was over my head with stuff I entrusted to… myself.
Self-reliance became one of my major pitfalls. It swallowed my time and stole the joy of contentment. I could not see past the accomplishment, or just sit and enjoy the blessings God had given me. My family needed a loving wife and mommy to just be. With them.
Ladies, we were created to love and nurture our family. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that. Our babies will be grown someday and they need us, all of us. They need us to pour into their little minds and hearts, the direction, explanation, concern, and care for the people they will become. They need to see us at high and low points, to struggle and fight, but always return to the One who sustains us. They need that hope, just like we need hope in something more than the next moment. More than the next opportunity.
Who God Says I Am
I love what Lysa TerKeurst says in her book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely:
“My identity must be anchored to the truth of who God is and who He is to me. Only then can I find a stability beyond what my feelings will ever allow. The closer I align my truth with His truth, the more closely I identify with God – and the more my identity really is in Him. Here’s the deal…when my identity is tied to circumstances I become extremely insecure because circumstances are unpredictable and ever-changing.”
What I needed to realize was that the beauty of everything I was able to do, was ultimately rooted in God anyway. He gave me everything I need to be the person I am. On top of that, I even have the free will to choose to thank Him for it. Here are the things He promises me in His Word:
In Him I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28)
Before the foundation of the world He chose me (Ephesians 1:4)
I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
He knew me before I was conceived (Jeremiah 1:5)
His plans for my future are for good, to give me hope (Jeremiah 29:11)
He is my provider, and will meet all of my needs (Matthew 6:31-33)
He is my bridegroom, I am His bride (John 3:29)
He is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31)
Nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:35-39)
He is able to do more than I can imagine (Ephesians 3:20)
He is my peace (Ephesians 2:14)
In Him, I have a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
His love for me is not based on my love for Him (1 John 4:10)
He will wipe away every tear from my eyes (Revelation 21:4)
“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men [and women] are valued not for what they are, but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.” – Thomas Merton
My education used to equal my credibility. My certification used to equal my preparedness. Money invested in me to get a degree and ultimately a career used to say everything about who I was and what I was capable of doing. For my family, for the world, and even for God.
This was another lie I believed. That the qualifications handed to me by an institution defined what I was prepared to do in life. It’s part of why I felt so guilty for leaving a position that afforded me the opportunity to use all of my training and personal gifts! (oooooohhh…ahhhhhhhh)
No. Just, no.
I have met countless people, men and women alike, who have done incredible things in their communities without a college degree. I’ve even had students who have gone into fields that a formal education could have never prepared them for. Some of my favorite people in the world are moms who dedicate their lives to raising families, homeschooling children, and spreading wisdom to others who God puts in their path of influence.
The Apostle Paul also had an extensive resume to flash around, and for all intents and purposes, he had every right to brag on himself in that day and age. He was an important leader in his community, a scholar, a rabbi, trained by the best of the best.
But he realized that in the light of Jesus Christ, His Savior whom he persecuted for so many years:
“I have counted all things as loss for the sake of Christ… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:7-11)
I faced a very real question the day that my friend challenged me to look at myself. It was as if the Lord was asking me, “If I took all of these things away, these things that make you feel so valuable, would you still be worth it?” While He does bless us with wonderful and unique personalities and abilities, the danger is in self-reliance, when we trust in those things to sustain our worth. Because when they’re gone, what is left?
Nothing and no one else defines my life but God. Not my education, not my career, not my position. Nothing. His purpose and plan for me is far more fulfilling than anything I could plan for myself.
He tells me, “You are good enough… and My grace is sufficient for you…”(2 Corinthians 12:9)
More than Mom
In the year following that initial conversation, the Lord took me through some incredible transformations in self-discovery. I began facilitating Women’s Bible studies on the books Sacred Influence, Keep It Shut, and the Emotionally Healthy Woman. I picked books I knew I needed for myself, and oh how He changed my heart. After years of finding other accommodations for my young kids while I worked, I was drawn to fall in love with the idea of homeschooling. My mommy heart did a complete 180, and I finally saw the joy in using my God-given strengths to educate my kids and build their foundation from home.
Eventually I focused my creative efforts on blogging. About what? Simplifying your life and focusing on the things that matter. That’s when I came across Gina’s blog YouAreMoreThanMom.com. I was so excited to find other women who God had called to the home front, and that title rang true, a statement so close to my healing heart.
Do You Believe It?
I planned a play date at the park with that same friend and she reminded me of our initial exchange. I was grinning big on the inside because she had no idea how vividly her words had affected the last year. She simply said, “You know what I mean now, huh?” And we hugged and cried.
Oh woman of utmost value and worth:
You are not a working machine.
You are not a position.
You are not a paycheck.
You are not who people expect you to be.
You are not what social media likes and comments say you are.
You are not what you look like.
You are not what you do.
…you are so much more than that.
Jennifer Bryant is the wife of a good man and mother of two precious kids. Her favorite things include reading, organizing, blogging, singing with her kids, laughing out loud with her husband, and making food for people. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and dreams of taking her family on marvelous adventures across the globe. In the meantime, she blogs about life and family, and encourages others to build practical skills for healthy communication, simple living, and discover their awesomeness. Connect with her on website at PracticalFamily.org, Facebook, Instagram @practicalfamily and Pinterest.
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