Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What Do I Do?

Confusing Roles and Identity

In my teens, Elisabeth Elliot's books had a huge impact on my life. I admired her ability to articulate God's truth both in written and spoken words. The opportunities I had to hear her speak in person and chat briefly with Elisabeth are cherished memories.

Several years ago I wondered what had become of Elisabeth. A quick google search revealed that she was in the late stages of Alzheimer's (which has since took her life.) I thought of the tall woman with carefully combed gray hair who could keep an audience of  young people spell-bound with her stories. I tried to reconcile that memory with the picture I saw of a stooped woman with vacant eyes.

Was Elisabeth Elliot the missionary, prolific writer, and insightful speaker of the past or this new person with no ability to speak a word or recognize a friend? 

Considering this question I realized that how I identify myself today may be impossible tomorrow.

Am I okay with that fact? Is my identity secure in the things that we found in God's Word in an earlier post on Who Am I? Or will I fall apart if my life changes? (And change will come.) 

What do you do? It's a common question, an easy conversation starter when meeting a stranger. We enjoy knowing how a new acquaintance fills their days. What are their hobbies? What fills their to-do lists?

I have many possible answers to those questions. At the present I can describe myself as a wife, homeschool mom, gardener, writer, and bread baker.

But what if my life changes and I can no longer identify myself by these words? My husband could decide to move to the city with no place to garden. I may become gluten intolerant and no longer be able to bake bread. Dementia could steal my mind and the ability to shape words into sentences. My husband may die and leave me widowed. My children will certainly grow up and, though I'll always be their mom, someday they may be caring for me.

Wife, writer, homeschool mom, gardener, and bread baker are things that I do, the roles God has given me, my avenue of ministry, the way I choose to spend my hours. But these roles are not my identity. If my identity is determined by the things that I do, losing those roles means I lose my identity.

Why is it important to have a correct view of roles and identity? 

If I don't have a proper identity, I will have wrong motives for service. 

I will seek fulfillment through the things I do. 

I will either become proud with my success or battle guilt when I fail. 

I will be upset when others don't appreciate my service. 

I will compare what I do to what others do. 

My identity will hinge on others' response.

When my identity is misplaced, my focus is self-centered. It is all about me. 

Even worse, if my idea of approval is based on what I do, I may begin to think that my salvation is based on my works. If I become ill or elderly and am incapable of doing as much, I might think I don't deserve God's love.

How do I find my identity if not in what I do? As we said in a past post, my identity must be based on what is true according to God's Word.

When the Bible speaks on what I should do it says,

I am a witness for Christ. (Acts 1:8)

I must bear one another's burdens. (Galatians 6:2)

I am an “ambassador for Christ” with “the ministry of reconciliation.” (11 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I serve others by love. (Galatians 5:13)

I am a branch attached to the True Vine and am chosen to bear fruit. (John 15:5,16)

I am the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)

Whew. God describes a high identity for His followers. Yet all of those truths can be fulfilled in many different roles. You may be married or single, love art or science, enjoy bread baking or nursing. Whatever circumstance we can, with God's help, live out His changeless calling for His daughters as found in His Word.

What helps you distinguish between your identity and your roles? How do you adapt to the changes in life while still staying true to your identity and calling as God's daughter.


  1. Amen! Well written. When our purpose is Jesus Christ, we don't have to worry about the rest. (Thinking of the wild olive that was grafted in Romans...when it starts thinking that now I'm "something", it's reminded that it is what it is because it's root is Jesus Christ!

  2. I have often struggled with the "what do I do" question.....but love that it reminds me that it doesn't matter what I do, what matters is who I am according to my heavenly Father not according to society.

  3. For He is my hope and my trust rests in Him. For today and for the unknown tomorrow. We have so much to be thankful for that our identity is anchored in God.

  4. Elizabeth Elliot's books have had an impact on me too. A big one, in how I once saw our modern culture and how I see it now. Wow.

    What you wrote about her later years made me think of something. None of us wants to be at the stage of needing help, but there is a blessing in helping. How can we help if no one needs help? It seems like we go through stages in life. We are young and need help. We are older and learning. We are older still and doing. At some point we are in need again, maybe some more than others and in different ways.

    I have two people in my life who have had a difficult relationship over the years. But now one has become the caretaker for the other. It has brought MUCH healing somehow to the one (who I think) was hurt the most. Grace is an amazing thing. So, whatever our role, it's okay. There's a purpose and God is good.

  5. Yes. I've been thinking about this over the last year alot. And you wrote it all out so nicely . So true. Thank you. I'm curious if perhaps we would be better off not trying to fit that role in our head and just be. Be Christs followers moment by moment in the daily grind we have foumd ourselves in. Because of our redemption through Christ. That's all.

  6. Thank you, Gina. These types of posts have been such a blessing to me.


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