REFRAMING IDENTITY AS A GIFT,
NOT A BURDEN

by Christina Lindsay- Dec 22 2017

I had a dream that I was a bridesmaid at the Andres Santo Domingo + Lauren Davis wedding, which was inexplicably held in New York instead of Columbia; we were running through the New York Public Library, on and off different subways, all while drowning in organza and chiffon. I was fluffing everyone’s bouquets, straightening their dresses, and realized—just as I was about to walk down the aisle—that I was still in pajama pants and holding a roll of duct tape instead of a bridal bouquet. At the height of my despair, Tim Gunn appeared with a bouquet of peonies, snapped his fingers, and I was perfectly presentable in a blush gown.

And while I, alas, do not know Tim Gunn in real life, the one thing that is true about that dream and my reality is my doer nature. I like to fix things and make them pretty, and I especially like doing that if it means someone else doesn’t have to worry about it.  It’s a trait that’s served me pretty well as a Christian. Let me rephrase that: it’s a trait that’s served me pretty well in my presentation of Christianity.

Maybe you’re like me: we ingratiate ourselves to those around us, proving our worth through acts of service. We make ourselves invaluable, we work harder than everyone else, we refuse to rest until everyone is taken care of. But somewhere, beneath all that cheery helpfulness and the genuine concern for our churches and friends and family, is a little voice whose whisper haunts us. 

You must earn your worth. After all, you are what you do, not who you are.

Have you ever believed that about yourself? The lie that you are not worthy on your own, but you can earn that worthiness? That maybe, just maybe, by healing and tidying everyone around us, we can patch over our own brokenness?

Do you know the story in Luke 10:38-42, about Mary and Martha? I wince every time I read it, because I’ve never once related to Mary; I’ve always been Martha.

Bustling around, doing everything she can to make it perfect. Probably interrupting to check if everyone has enough tea, and that the room isn’t too hot or too cold. Running in and out of the kitchen to check on the meal, trying very hard to listen, and then fixating on a loose string on a blanket. The Bible says she was ‘distracted with service’; she ultimately throws her sister under the bus, asking Jesus why He doesn’t care that Mary isn’t helping her. Jesus’ response, brimming with empathy, is so powerful.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  

You know what always stands out to me about this? He doesn’t acknowledge her service. He doesn’t affirm her for dusting, or cooking, or anything, doesn’t compliment the dinner she’s served or the room she’s served it in. Because Martha would react exactly how I would—everything else would fade, except for the affirmation. And all her doer-heart would hear is ‘You DID well.’ Instead, Jesus gently reprimands her, asking for her to take after her sister, and be still in the presence of God.  

The other thing about this verse, is the closeness with which Jesus discusses Martha’s heart. He doesn’t say ‘I see you’re busy’ or ‘I know you’ve got a lot going on’, but He cuts to the core of the matter: her service is not a labor of love, it is the product of worry, of doubt. Jesus knows it, He trusts Martha knows it, and He asks her to acknowledge it. That is a scary thing to do.

To look at your actions, at your service, and acknowledge that sometimes they stem from something more than helpfulness. To let go of the things you do, and realize that they mean nothing to your Savior, Who only cares for your heart. To release the expectations you carry, to realize that the things with which you’ve been defining yourself aren’t the things that He speaks over you.

When we look at identity like a checklist, it’s exhausting. If ‘Christian’ means what you do, or a level you have to somehow achieve, we are so toast. But us fixers, us Marthas, we try anyways. We do all the right things, learn all the right things, know how to recite them, and to whom. And then we find ourselves like Martha, bustling around the kitchen saying ‘hold on, Jesus, I’ll be with you in a moment, once everything is perfect.’  Even though we know we can never work our way, earn our way, to perfection.

Jesus tells us the same thing He told Martha: I know your heart is worried. I know you are tired. Just come be with me.
It’s not about what we do.
It’s not even about who we are.
It’s Whose we are.
Jesus, who knew Martha’s heart, knows yours. He crafted your soul, knit together your story, created a life so special and so intentional that He longs so much to be a part of. He left the stars so His feet could walk the same earth you do; gave up eternity so we could know it. Friend, do you think any of your doing, fixing, beautifying could earn that?

So lean into it. Like Mary, check your burdens at the door, abandon your desire to be seen as the Christian. Sit at your Savior’s feet and hear the truth He speaks over you: fearfully and wonderfully made. Chosen. Child. Forgiven. Loved. Enough.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey fam! I'm Christina (or Chris, Stina, Chrisy, Lindsay…really whatever suits your fancy); I'm a consultant in NYC where I have made it my personal mission to seek out every #aesthetic coffee shop and bookstore. I love a red lip and I really love a baguette, but more than anything, I’m passionate about women coming to live fully in grace, embracing the life for which they were created, and thriving in community. You can find me @ChrisyLindsay or over at my blog, The Salt and Light.

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