by Mandy den Dekker
Nowadays there are A LOT of things that ‘define us’. We’re sisters, daughters, mothers, friends, lovers. In this world we’re also defined, by ourselves and by others, by the things that we do and like. We’re artists, doctors, social workers, accountants. We’re kind, funny, social. We define ourselves. Everybody does. Not all in the same way, but always by something that is important to us, something we hold in high regard. We need some sort of short statement or summary that says: ‘this is who I am, this is what defines me, this is how I want to be known’. Maybe you want to be known as the girl who is very kind to everyone around her, or maybe you like people to see you as a someone who does her job exceptionally well. And maybe you didn’t even realize this is what you’re doing right up to this point, defining yourself by certain things in your life.I’ve struggled with this issue for years now. It started in my teens – which is the period in life everybody’s just looking for definition and answers to all these big questions (Who am I? What am I here for?), and that is how it happened for me too. While some people may have developed some sort of definition during this period, through finding something they’re good at or really enjoyed, I guess I missed that boat. No problem, you say? There’s always college! Because that too is a period and a place where you dive a little deeper into these questions, and really ‘find yourself’ or ‘define yourself’.
Well, here I am, a college graduate since last February (2013, that is) and I’m here to tell you: it doesn’t work like that for everybody. Not that I didn’t do some soul searching over the last couples of years(s) – because I did. But I didn’t learn to define myself in ways I had expected when I was growing up, in terms of a job or something I would be doing. Instead I’ve learned something else…This is the part where Jesus comes in. You see, I’ve known Him for a while now. Actually, we’ve met years ago because I grew up going to church. But I didn’t really start following Him until a couple of years ago. And the beauty of following Jesus is that He makes you realize things you didn’t realize before. I guess you could say it’s the teaching-aspect of life with Jesus. Especially over the last six months He has been teaching me, through a break up, several songs, blog posts and the Bible, about the importance of relying solely and completely on His saving life and death (and resurrection), and nothing else.
I’ve also discovered how difficult it is to do just that. Basically what it means is that we, as humans, have to stop defining ourselves in terms of our abilities and such, and start to define ourselves as people who are saved by God. We have to stop looking at ourselves as people who are great at certain things (‘I’m a great athlete’, or ‘I’m a great mom’, or ‘I’m a very kind person’), and start looking at God and what He did for us through Jesus. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to feel good about yourself, or feeling good about what you do – because it definitely isn’t! God gave you these talents and gifts, and He wants you to use them. I’m just saying, what happens when you won’t be able to use them anymore? When something happens and you can’t go back to work, you can’t play sports or you lose someone and you’re not a daughter or a sister or a mother anymore? What happens then?
What I’m trying to say is this: when you built a firm foundation in Christ, you’re better at navigating through the storms life will throw at you, rather than sinking very quickly. This works the other way around too. When you don’t feel like you’re a great person, or you’re not really succeeding at life it’s such a relief to know that that doesn’t define you. Jesus does. And that’s what He wants for us! To live a life where He is the center of our attention, because He knows we will be better for it. It’s a win-win situation! Now, I’m still working on this, and I probably will be for the rest of my life. But I’m so thankful to get to learn every day, and know there’s so much grace, for you and me, every day, to do just that!