What defines you? Is it your job? Your relationship status? Your social circle? Your hobbies? Family? Friends? There are many things in this broken world that we allow to give meaning and definition to what we are and in turn, define who we are as well.
When I was in 6th grade I received my very first straight “A” report card. I was so excited because I’d never done so well in school before! My mom and dad were so proud and I felt so important because I was good at something for once in my life! The positive reinforcement that I received, made me feel like I needed to get that straight “A” report card again and again. I remember, quite vividly giving myself definition by trying to be perfect academically from that point on. I was rarely complimented on my looks or my personality, so I never saw myself as “the pretty girl” or “the funny girl” who everyone liked. So I saw my academic success as something that could define me. I could be “the smart” girl.
The problem with this definition of the “perfect smart one”, of course, is that nobody is perfect. And you cannot physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually sustain a life of “perfection.” At some point you will fail. At some point you won’t be that “perfect” person anymore.
When I got my first “F” on a project in 8th grade I totally fell apart. I had misunderstood when the project was due and had all of the pieces, but they were not assembled when the project was actually due. I turned in what I had and got a big, fat “F” on that project. Let’s just say that I was beyond inconsolable.
I remember that terrible rush of anxiety that flows through your body when something terrible happens. The lingering thoughts of “I can’t believe this happening,” and “How could you mess this up so badly?” By getting something other than an “A,” my personal definition had changed. I was no longer perfect and I lead that to mean that I was no longer smart. If I wasn’t “the smart girl,” then who was I? These thoughts then transformed into deeper, internalized self doubt where I actually believed it when I told myself “I’m a failure as a person.” All because I received one “F,” on one project, in one class in 8th grade. Never mind the fact that I had done well on everything else in that class and that I did well in all of my other classes. This one experience, led me to believe that I was somehow, at that point, failing at life.
My mom called my teacher and tried to explain how upset I was and that I had merely misunderstood when the project was due and asked if I could have a chance to turn in the completed project. Luckily, my teacher allowed me to complete the project and she changed my grade to a “C,” but that was still not good enough for me. When you define yourself as “the smart girl” anything less than an “A” is considered to be failure.
The other thing is, when you define yourself by something in this broken world of ours, then you’re always going to be let down. Your self definition and worth is tied to something that is fleeting, imperfect, and uncontrollable. If we allow things like our intelligence, our looks, or our relationship status to define who we are as human beings then we will always be in a state of limbo, because these are things that are out of our control and can very easily change. In turn, your definition will need to change. Sometimes we make mistakes on academic tests and sometimes a specific subject matter just does not click in your head no matter how much you try (for me it was always chemistry and geometry). Our looks will fade (even with the latest and greatest wrinkle creams and cosmetic surgery). Our relationships can end (even ones that you feel are solid can end up going in the complete opposite direction from where you thought life would take you).
When you have someone else who gives you definition (such as a boy/girlfriend or spouse), then you are relying on an imperfect and fallible being to give your life meaning. Humans are not capable (or worthy) of having that much authority and power over someone else. Only God should be given such an honor. When we rely on the presence of another person to fill that void in our lives where we define ourselves as a “girl/boyfriend” or “husband” or “wife” then we are defining ourselves based on the wrong thing. Our intimate relationships can end in an instant, whether that be through a break up, divorce, or even an illness or accident that takes the other person’s life. Then what happens? What happens when you are suddenly and unexpectedly single again? What defines you at that point when you are no longer a girl/boyfriend or spouse? You end up searching for other ways to give your life meaning because your definition has to change.
The best and strongest way to do that is to seek out God’s truth. Allow Him to define you. Allow Him to remind you that you are His beloved child! You are His creation, put on this planet for a specific purpose that only you can do. You are God’s hands and feet in this dark and broken world. Just because someone you loved in the past says that they no longer love you or that your relationship ends for whatever reason, that does not mean that your definition in Christ has changed. He is the one solid and perpetual presence that you can define yourself by. There are many examples in scripture that encourage us to seek Him for our purpose and definition:
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”- Proverbs 19:21
“… by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”- 2 Timothy 1:8-9
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”- Ephesians 2:10
Ephesians reminds us that God has given us a specific purpose to fulfill during our time on earth and that He has prepared us and the path we are to take in order to complete His calling for our lives. When you see God’s purpose as your purpose, you help to define yourself by something eternal. God’s plan for you was created beforehand, meaning He likely had your purpose planned out before you were even born. You had purpose and definition before you even entered this world as His beloved child.
So don’t allow the brokenness of this world and it’s people to define who you are. You have a much greater purpose than you will probably ever truly realize. You are a beloved child of God who was created and called to fulfill His purpose and His plan for your life. And really, that’s all that will ever truly matter.
Define yourself by God’s truth, not the lies of those around you. Don’t believe the lies of the enemy and don’t believe the lies of the broken people in your life. Seek God and allow Him to fill you with purpose. Allow Hi
m to give you meaning. Allow Him to define who you are because He is the creator of everything and only He truly knows what everyone’s purpose is in this life.
You’re no longer cast away at a specific table for “smart people,” “beautiful people,” “funny people,” or “single people” because in God’s eyes we are all the same. We are His children, whom He loves unconditionally and we are always welcome to sit with Him at His table, no strings attached.