By Joy O’Neal
I know the normal thing in this season is to write about the beauty of Christmas and the birth of our Savior but for a moment I would like to press pause. I want to discuss a topic that has been a recurring wrestle in my motherhood journey. I’m talking about identity. Throughout the many waves and seasons of motherhood, I continually find myself asking questions around true identity. When did it become such a big deal? Why does my flesh hunger for it? Why do I continue to search for it?
All these questions came flooding in while sitting on the porch with my dad on a warm South Carolina night. Casually, my dad asked, “What’s on your heart; what’s God been saying to you?” Without hesitation, the words poured out. “Dad, I am so confused by this obsession both for myself and those around me over identity.” You see moms, it felt as though everywhere I turned I was surrounded with the concerns of what others thought, who they said I was and how I appeared to be. Also, during this season of my life, it seemed like I needed to prove worthiness. Everywhere I looked, identity appeared to be lost. The question of HOW are you was replaced with WHO are you.
There is no other place where my personal identity has felt attacked more than in motherhood. As mothers, we want so deeply to get it right and since we’ve never held the title of mom until we hold our first child, it sparks a season of seeking. We research, question and, in true times of desperation, we Google. In the midst of this search, I believe there can be a dangerous shift that takes place. This shift somehow creeps in through thoughts of doubt and before we know it we are doing it as Sally does and how Jamie does and … well, the unique identity that was given to us and ONLY us is lost. Hence the start of a journey to lost identity.
Reeling over these thoughts I began to blame it on social media and the way our society lives a life on display, then my dad stopped me. What he said next gave me a revelation I’ll never forget around identity. He said, “Joy, this is no new thing! Go to Genesis. What is the first thing God said after the lies of doubt—when the first identity theft took place?”
I found it in Genesis 3:11; the first time identity was stolen. Genesis 3:11 “Who told you that…” Again my dad explained scripture in a way that comes straight from the Holy Spirit. I saw it, felt it and understood. The enemy inserted doubt to the God-given identity of Adam and Eve which caused a desire to cover themselves. They began to glean from the wrong source.
My soul made the connection in an instant and through the lens of grace, I began to see the search for significance for exactly what it was. The moms around me and myself were simply covering ourselves with “the perfect way” because somewhere along the line we started to listen to the wrong source.
After this conversation with my dad, I went on a journey. I asked God the deeper questions of my heart. How do I avoid the trap of lost identity? How do I silence the voices of doubt? How do I quiet pride and the desire to be seen and heard? And the biggest question, if my identity is in You then how do I see myself as You do?
The answers to these questions brought confusion at first because it was two names that rose to the surface of my quest. Mary and Rahab. I had to laugh! I wasn’t sure how the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab were going to come together but I was willing to dive into scripture and find out. I found two very different women living very different lives with very different identities but somehow uttering the exact same sentence.
The first proclamation is in Joshua when the two spies speak with Rahab about the plans of attack on her city. Joshua 2:21,
The second is in Luke after the angel appears to Mary and tells her she will be the mother of Jesus. Luke 1:38,
If the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab could arrive at the same mindset then possibly there is something here for us too.
Musing over the previous conversation with my dad on the topic of identity and this new parallel it was beginning to come together. God had already declared Adam and Eve’s true identity. They had no knowledge of nakedness until they listened to the words of doubt. Their desire to cover came directly from listening and believing the voice of confusion. Their source was wrong. Oppositely, Mary and Rahab were able to boldly declare, “Let it be as you say” simply because they listened and believed the right source.
As moms, I’m positive our identity will continue to be challenged. Reminding ourselves to remain confident in what scripture says about us is the strongest weapon in fighting against the identity crisis that seems to meet us at each new season. Just as God did in the garden, can I challenge you to ask yourself the question, “who told me that?” When you feel the urge to cover with accomplishments, credentials, degrees and labels, pause and remember who God says you are. And just like Mary and Rahab, when truth speaks be women that are ready to boldly declare, Let it be as you say!
Merry Christmas mamas!