I am following a set of clues. I think, at least, that I am following a set of clues. They seem to be intentional, and I think also that they are leading me to my identity.
But I could be wrong.
So anyway, the clues.
I found the latest one in a bookstore in the mall. It was a book title from John Ortberg: The Me I Want to Be. If you’re looking for your identity, a book title like that alone will jump off the shelf at you. But it also happened to be startlingly close to a phrase I just read in Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. Something about “your job is to pursue becoming who God made you to be. Anything else is sin.”
As I pulled out my bookstore Reward Card, and then my debit card, and then my driver’s license (the signature having long since worn off my debit card), it occurred to me that we have all these cards to tell other people what our identity is.
Driver’s licenses, credit or debit cards (with their implications of our standard, Gold, or Platinum social status), business cards to tell people what important professionals we are, or Moo cards to tell people we’re too cool for a regular business card.
But when it comes to telling ourselves who we are, where our identity lies, none of those things seems to quite cut it, do they?
Religious platitudes, like “your identity is in Christ” aren’t much more helpful, either. While it’s undoubtedly true that my identity is in Christ, that statement is far less a final word than an invitation to begin exploring. What does that even look like?
One thing is for sure–it won’t look the same for me as it does for anyone else. It certainly doesn’t mean I’ll never find my “real identity” till I quit my job, become a SAHM and start shilling Longaberger baskets.
BTW, I have a tremendous admiration for stay at home moms, for people who follow their consciences in regards to their work-family situation, and for franchise entrepreneurs. No one was happier than me for my younger sister who recently left a toxic, miserable workplace to stay home with her kids. Those are all challenging, daunting choices.
But those criminally overpriced baskets? They have about as much to do with following Jesus as my latest video game. And if you’re a woman, there is a not-so-subtle pressure in the evangelical subculture that you’re supposed to want to be a SAHM.
On the other hand, I also am not going to find my identity by trying to fit into someone else’s ideal of an “empowered” career woman. Again–I respect the choices of others. I also deeply resent being told repeatedly that their choices should be mine, if I were only smart/confident/free enough. If I could just shake off those silly, useless beliefs, kids, values and relationships that give my life meaning are “holding me back.”
When I first started this blog, or shortly thereafter, James Chartrand of the wildly popular blog Men with Pens, commented here. Last month, “James” admitted that “he” was actually a “she.” Taking a male alias resulted in getting treated like a talented copywriter, as opposed to a “mommy blogger” with grand ambitions.
You know what I think? I think there is an awful lot of pretending going on, particularly among women, about our identities. Pretending we want what our social circle (whether that circle is “liberal” or “conservative”) says we should want. Pretending to be who we need to be to keep our kids fed and provided for. Pretending we’re who we want others to think we are. Pretending to be who we want to believe we are.
I have been doing a lot of pretending myself for a while. I’ve let myself become Eliza Doolittle. I’ve squeezed myself into an ill-fitting mold. Mostly out of a genuine desire to help, but still, I made a choice to pretend to be a person I wasn’t.
Partly, a pretense like that was a way for me to try a new “version” of myself on for size. I didn’t know whether it would fit or not. Some pieces actually did, surprisingly, fit. So it wasn’t a total loss (few things in life are, if you’re paying attention). But several just… don’t.
As we move forward into a new year, I realize that if I really want to find my own identity, in all it’s quirky glory, it’s time to stop pretending.