Letting Jesus Be Your Life
by JASMIN HOWELL
I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live,
But Christ lives in me.
Galatians 2:20 ESV
Our car bumped along the gravel road as we made our way to visit some friends at their quaint country acreage. Things were blooming, the sun was shining, and I was exuberant! My four-year-old son chattered happily away in the backseat, and my six-month-old son cooed beside him when my phone suddenly rang. It was the broker for my real estate office calling to tell me that she was retiring from the industry and closing the brokerage in just a few months. She then asked me if I had any interest in becoming a broker and taking it over.
My exuberance turned to panic, and I felt a little battle starting in my heart as we pulled into our destination.
I loved my job as a realtor, and I knew that practically I had all of the abilities to be an excellent broker. The appeal of owning my own business and managing a team of other agents was instantly compelling — and overwhelming. I was a wife, a mom to two children, and a part-time real estate agent. It was already a lot to manage, let alone adding the responsibilities of a broker to the list. Still, over the next few weeks I couldn’t seem to let the idea go, even though I knew it didn’t make sense in my current season of life.
That was when my heart was pricked by the Lord that I had attached a measure of pride to being a realtor. I highly valued that “identity” because it was a job I felt really confident in. But in clinging to that identity, I was simultaneously undervaluing the role He had gifted to me as the mother of my two children.
Being a mom is fairly new territory for me. I enjoy motherhood and want to excel at it, but I am just a few short years into the journey — a newbie in almost every way imaginable and painfully aware of my flaws. I love my kids deeply, and I want to be a poured-out mother for them — serving them, loving them, and caring for their practical, emotional, and spiritual needs. But the identity of mother hasn’t been as easy for me to embrace because in my flesh it makes me feel totally inadequate.
Along with these realizations, I wondered if my struggle was really about embracing one identity over the other. Was I having what the world calls an “identity crisis”? Would I experience freedom if I let the identity of “realtor” go and fully embraced the identity of “mother”? Was it really that simple?
In His kindness, the Lord showed me that the answer was no.
In truth, no identity can ever totally fulfill us or settle our anxious, striving hearts — save one. And clinging to identity labels can make us resistant to serving God in whatever manner, or whatever role, He might place us. But we are not to serve our identity labels or let them define the way we live our life. There is a way to avoid the trap of an identity crisis, and it is life changing.
For if we have put our hope in Christ, then we have, “died to this life, and [our] real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3 NLT).
Our true identity is that we are His, and not our own. We are here to build His Kingdom, not our own little kingdoms. He has called us and set us apart for His purposes, not to find our purpose. If we are in Christ, and He in us … then we already have an identity more meaningful than any other earthly role, skill, job, or talent could give to us.
An Earthly View of Identity
What is really significant to me is that God used this “crisis moment” in my life to help me realize I had a dirt-encrusted, earthly view of identity. It was as though it was marred and muddy, and God began to rub it clean, revealing a shining, glorious, and freeing truth to my heart! My idea of identity — and consequently my sense of worth — had been found primarily in external labels. It can be easy for me to seek a sense of identity in what I do (“I am a mom”), my relationships (“I am a wife”), my skills (“I am a writer”), my job (“I am a realtor”), and so on.
You probably have your own labels too, your own concept of what your identity is. Maybe it’s something you cherish (i.e. honors student), or maybe it’s something you wish you could shake (i.e. teen mom). These labels — either those we have given ourselves, or those that have been given to us — can be a source of pride or shame. And if, as Christian women, we let these labels form our identity, we start to live in the shadows, only experiencing a fragment of what is actually available to us in Christ.
The labels and identities we give ourselves — and others — are an easy way to return to bondage. However, we are not to bind ourselves to an earthly identity. We need a different answer.
A Heavenly View of Identity
When we attempt to define ourselves by our skill sets, our appearance, our jobs, etc., we will always be chasing after a self-crafted identity. For example, if I view the term “realtor” as my identity, I cling to it and look for my worth in it. And if I cling to my role of “mother,” seeking worth and value from it, then I am unconsciously setting myself up for an identity crisis just the same. Insert your own example and this will still apply because what each of us needs is not to embrace any earthly identity, but our heavenly one.
If we know we are sinners in need of a Savior (we are, by the way), then God has already opened our eyes to the need for a better identity than anything this earth can give us or that we can live out in our own strength. My church refers to it as “The Great Exchange” — exchanging our poor, earthly identities for Christ’s perfect, heavenly one. As it says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20 ESV).
As someone who has struggled with being in bondage to labels and being defined by earthly roles, this is utter freedom!
Ultimately, this is the Gospel! By His death and resurrection, Jesus purchased our total and absolute freedom — label free! For example, when God looks at my life, He doesn’t see a series of identities playing out every day: “Jasmin the Realtor” or “Jasmin the Mother” or “Jasmin the Writer.” He doesn’t see your life that way either. He doesn’t see the series of your successes or failures. He doesn’t measure your value by how well you live your life. That is how we may see ourselves and others, but He doesn’t see things the way we do. (See 1 Samuel 16:7.)
Friend, the only thing God sees when He looks at you and me is Jesus and His perfect life. We are completely covered by His sacrifice. It is why our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.” It is why we can live completely free in Christ.
I am not to be defined by anything I am or that I can do, but by Jesus and what He has DONE!
Let Jesus Be Your LIFE
Any hope we place in ourselves, our giftings, skills, abilities, or roles are bound to disappoint us and others because we cannot carry them out to perfection, and our human weakness shows up everywhere. Our true identity — the one we should embrace wholeheartedly — is being His. All the rest is an overflow: serving others out of love for Him, using whatever gifts and skills we have been given to point others to Him, deriving joy and purpose from doing anything He gives us to do with all of our hearts to the best of our ability.
And He is also the One who enables us to do so with grace and boundless joy, embracing each changing season, and our changing roles here on earth with total peace and surrender. When this surrender is the posture of our hearts, being a mother, wife, writer, realtor, (insert your own role here) become ways in which we can pour out our lives with total freedom, not earthly labels that define us.
He has purchased fullness of life for you and for me. So let’s leave all earthly labels and identities behind, and simply let Jesus be our life!