Over the last six months nearly every part of my identity has been challenged, destroyed or removed.
My identity as a successful editor in London? Maternity leave and moving to Monmouthshire effectively ended that. Gone are the glamorous lunches, dinners and parties. Gone is the confidence gained from my job title when introducing myself to people. Gone are my free beauty products, connections and, well, gone is one of the main reasons people used to want to be my friend.
My identity as an attractive, fit, young woman? Somewhere between my abs separating and forceps pulling me apart my self esteem was brutally exposed. Am I still beautiful if none of my old clothes fit me anymore?
My identity as a teacher and leader in church? Gone, when we decided we wanted to push into church around the dinner table here at Great House Farm. I’m no one’s leader, no one wants me to teach at their church, no one tries to grab me for a coffee after a meeting. Am I even a good Christian if no one is listening to me?
My identity as a cared for, carefree daughter? Seriously challenged by my dad’s fight for his life. Suddenly my parents were not just a resource, a support, a place of retreat – they were something in threat, something I had to look after.
My identity as a wife, sister, friend? Rocked, by the arrival of my daughter and my whole purpose shifting to being about serving, loving and raising her.
Whether it’s becoming a new mum, living through a pandemic, changing jobs, moving house, leaving a church (or, if you’re a mad woman doing all those things at once!) a big shift in life can mean facing up to who we are and how we define ourselves.
It’s only now, after much processing with Jesus, that I realise how many parts of my identity I had created to serve me and not God.
The question I’ve been trying to answer during lockdown, and the one I’d like you to ponder too, is; who are you when no one’s watching?
Who are you when your calendar is completely empty?
Who are you when you’re not working?
Who are you when you’re not going to church?
Who are you when it’s just you and God and all you’ve done is baked, watched Netflix and walked once a day?
Who are you, when your life is reduced to the four walls of your home? When your circle of influence is just your family?
In short, who even are you?
It’s in thinking through all of this, through wondering who I am when so much of me and my life has been changed, that I realised that this crisis of identity is part of the purpose of this time.
Let me put this another way. Imagine you’re a bulb, a bulb that’s just been planted deep into compost. It’s hard to tell what sort of plant the bulb is anymore, with last year’s growth cut off and the foliage died back. The bulb has been plunged into darkness, given water and fertile soil and then, for the coming months, it’s a waiting game to see whether it will grow again or not.
That’s how I feel right now; like I’ve been plunged deep into the earth, it’s dark and any growth that’s happening is invisible. Can you relate?
I feel this lockdown period is a time of deep planting. We’re in the dark, soggy compost stage now. Last year’s growth has been pruned off and now all we’re left with is the beginnings of ourselves.
Through the gentle sway of these lockdown days Jesus has shown me that everything that matters about who I am is bedded deep within me and what counts, in these times of deep, dark, planting, is just that I grow towards the light.
I believe this season is a ripe opportunity to let old growth die back, deadhead false identities and be planted again with purpose.
“…What counts, in these times of deep, dark, planting, is just that I grow towards the light.”
It doesn’t matter that I don’t have any social plans. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a job title other than mum. It doesn’t matter that my church now happens in my kitchen, not in a big building. It doesn’t matter that no one is seeing me be a Christian other than my family.
All that matters, about who I am, is what God says matters. I am who He says I am, and nothing else.
This is a season, in my life and I believe in yours too, of being deadheaded, planted and watered. Jesus is cutting off old, no-longer-helpful identities and chucking them on the compost heap. Now is the time to rest and reset in the darkness, preparing for next year’s growth.
Let’s make sure we grow towards the light.