It’s More Than
“Just a Phase”
Redeeming Identity in Women, Young and Old
A few months ago, I spoke to junior high and high school girls on the topic of “Redeeming Identity” where we examined our identity as Christians, as defined by scripture, and explored the ways in which we are distracted from our true identity in Christ. Upon asking teenage girls where they tend to falsely place their identity/self-worth, the following answers were shared: popularity, appearances, boys/relationships, sports/extracurricular activities, and social media (big one!). This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it is fairly expansive.
As I looked back to my own awkward teenage years, I could see that all of the aforementioned things, other than social media (only because it wasn’t yet invented!), produced identity conflicts within me. Further, I noticed that these exact categories still have a way of creeping into my self-perceived identity today if I am not on guard. In a world that sends many secular messages to women regarding beauty, personality, confidence, motherhood, career etc., it can be easy to stray from who we are as Christ’s adopted daughters.
Here are 3 categories that young women (read: all women) may use to falsely define themselves and how the Bible directs us back to our identity in Christ:
In the teenage years, popularity is a thing sought after by many young girls. After all, it feels good to be liked! Likewise, it can feel pretty terrible to be disliked. The temptation is then to define oneself based on perceived popularity. Unfortunately, the process to becoming popular in the formidable years can be an ugly one which may involve phrases like “you can’t sit with us” and “did you see what she is wearing?”
As an adult, popularity evolves but may still be an idol in the Christian woman’s life. We may want to fit in with a certain group of moms, or a certain set of couples, or have a certain amount of money or material things, or desire for our kids to have certain friends or play on certain teams. We may isolate others in our pursuit of popularity by only speaking to certain people at after-school pick-up, while ignoring others. We may dodge someone in the grocery store because they do not fit within our social construct, or because we feel inadequate and do not wish to be seen. We may post things on social media for the purpose of gaining the approval and positive comments of others, and we may feel unpopular if we do not receive those things. The list could go on.
As Christians, popularity ought to be insignificant to our identity. The Bible tells us that if we show partiality we are committing sin (James 2:9 ESV). After all, God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11). Jesus showed no partiality while He was on earth. He was not moved by irrelevant external appearances or status. Likewise, we are to love all of those around us by loving our Christian brothers and sisters and sharing the good news of Jesus to those who do not know Him. Jesus commanded us to do so. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34(ESV)
Oh, appearances. This is a big one. The young girls I talked with mentioned clothing brands, body-type/size, type of car one has, etc. as key distractions from true identity in Christ. This desire to have a certain appearance can have a powerful hold on the life of a woman, regardless of age. As we get older, we may start to seek after the fountain of youth. We may become consumed with looking younger, obsessively exercising to stay fit, staying up on the latest clothing trends and spending too much to keep up with them in order to feel better about ourselves. We may lack the capability to act on any of these things but still be excessively frustrated at our appearance.
An obsession with appearance is dangerous because it leads us to not only idolize ourselves, but also to judge the appearance of all the women around us, possibly even resenting those who have what we desire. Furthermore, if we constantly strive to be happy with our outward appearance, it will only prove to be disappointing. The curse on mankind due to sin has placed us in aging, not ageless, bodies.
Jesus was not attractive by worldly standards. Isaiah 53:2 says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” Jesus did not look at the outward appearance of others, and He was not concerned with his own. First Peter 3:3-4 perhaps admonishes us best: “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” What a relief it should be for Christian women to know that God looks at the heart and not at outward appearance.
It’s possible I received some “side-eye” when I shared with young girls that I am not a fan of dating relationships in high school and definitely not in junior high. I feel as though I can say that, since I married my high school sweetheart. The main reason for my stance on this is the distraction that relationships pose to a young Christian’s identity. It is near impossible for a young Christian girl to be secure in her identity in Christ when dating a teenage boy. It is likely tempting to place one’s self-worth in the whims and fickle feelings of an adolescent boy, if in a serious dating relationship where marriage is not yet a possibility.
The truth is that it is never wise for a Christian woman to define herself based on a relationship, or lack thereof. Even married women should be mindful of the temptation to find their security in the thoughts or actions of a spouse. When married to a sinful human being, however wonderful they may be, it is vital to find self-worth in your identity in Christ. We may be tempted to place our spouse on a pedestal, where only God belongs, by idolizing them. Early in my marriage, the tiniest disappointments were at times colossal because I expected perfection from my husband. If he made the slightest mistake, I took it personally because I placed my identity in our relationship rather than in Christ.
Jesus spoke strongly on this when He said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.” John 10:37 (ESV). He also said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 (ESV) While this wording may seem shockingly strong, the point that Jesus is making here is that God must be supreme in our lives, above all others (Matt. 22:37-39). When we understand our identity in Christ, our marriages will thrive because we will be more equipped to love our spouses with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
Identity in Christ is Found in Self-denial
Sports/extracurriculars and social media were the other two primary categories mentioned by teenage girls as defining mechanisms of their self-worth. Surely there are numerous other categories not listed here. Ultimately, the answer to escaping all things that enslave our identity as Christian women is self-denial. Where Christ is in full view, making Him known becomes infinitely more important than our external attributes.
Matthew 10:38 says, “And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The implications of this verse are significant; we must be willing to die to ourselves, even physically if necessary, to follow Christ. Scripture tells us that we were once dead in our transgressions, and He made us alive together with Him. He has forgiven all our transgressions and canceled out the certificate of debt. He has nailed it to the cross. We have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 2:13-14; Col 3:3).
Questions to Ponder
Finally, let us consider these questions:
- Is there a group that I am trying to fit into? Am I compromising my identity in Christ to do so?
- Where do I value my external attributes more than who I am in Christ?
- Do I value human relationships more than my relationship with Christ?
- What is one thing I can stop doing today that distracts from my identity in Christ?
- Do I spend time in the Bible and in prayer daily so that my eyes are fixed on Him and not on my own selfish ambitions/desires?
Heather has been married to her husband Don Mark since 2005. They have three kids – 10, 8, and <1 yrs old. Having grown up in Canyon and attended West Texas A&M, Heather has a desire for the people of this community to know Christ. Recently, she started the venture of homeschooling her two oldest children. Heather has a Ph.D. in Agriculture from WT and operates a scientific writing business from home. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family, having coffee with Mark, cooking, and reading.