The Identity Question

I work full time for a Christian campus ministry. One of the greatest aspects of working in this ministry is the dedication to growth and reading that is a part of the culture of this particular organization. Staff, our short term for campus staff ministers, are incredibly smart, intellectual, and thoughtful people who are always seeking learning and growth.

As a Campus Staff Worker in the Great Lakes region, we get trainings during our first few years on Staff. We read books to help us learn and grow, get training during 3 day retreats, and have time to reflect on what’s been happening in our lives and how we are growing through that. This is wonderful!

Just tonight, I was reading a book for one of these courses. As I am reading about navigating difficult conversations and the different aspects of conversation happening in such conversation, God dropped truth on me like the Spirit was a house and I was the wicked witch of the East.

Backstory, last week I went to my spiritual director, and over the course of the hour meeting with him it became clear that I [still] feel an incredible shame about myself. I feel like a waste of resources and that I drain people. I don’t think that is the truth, but I recognized that my actions align with my feelings and not the truth, as is quite common for all of us.

 Needless-to-say, I’ve been dealing with that for the past week or so and trying to pray about it, but even in that I’ve felt unable to go to God, the shame I feel about the shame making me afraid to approach.

As I’m reading Difficult Conversations, I get to a section about the “identity conversation,” which, briefly, brings up the question “how does this conflict impact my identity?” There are three core identities recognized by the author, and the last one….

You know how when something hits you and you set the book down, whether it’s fiction or non, and just sit there, silent, in shock and waiting for…something?

That’s how I was.

I realized that I suffer that identity issue not just in difficult conversations, but in my everyday waking, walking, eating, moving life. It is something that I believe at my core, not just something that comes up every so often. I operate out of this belief and it impacts every aspect of my life. The third core identity question is:

Am I worthy of love?

To say that this impacts every aspect of my life is a huge admission. Essentially, I have to prove myself for everything. Not for competence, not for goodness, but for love. If I do the right thing, look the right way, am funny enough, smart enough, anything, I may achieve worthiness to be loved. 

This is the reason I am always surprised when I find someone has a crush on me. In my mind, I have done nothing to prove I’m worthy to be liked, let alone loved, how can this person desire me? 

I’m staring away as I write this briefly on my phone, wanting to share my hurt and struggle, I can’t concentrate.

It’s like streaming a season of your favorite show on Netflix, then getting up, looking outside and seeing the world. It’s crazy, you don’t recognize it even though it is truth, and really you want to go back to staring at a screen and letting it go past. Back to the haze, back to the forgetfulness. Back to not dealing with the depth and the pain and the struggle of whatever is out there.

We are really all doping ourselves in someway, ignoring something with various forms of media, work, friends, vacations, or whatever. We can’t stand to deal with whatever will come up if we just listen to what’s happening in our souls.

But if we did stop, listen to our own true-self crying out, stopped and began to hear the truth, we would slowly find more freedom, peace, and grace.

I’m not sure where it will lead me to realize that I don’t feel worthy of love, but maybe I can recognize the next time I do something just so someone will love me. It’s one step, but that’s all we can ever really handle.

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