A Lasting Identity

November 20, 2023

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

The last five years have brought a magnitude of change to my life. I’ve been an empty nester for over a decade, my first big change. To be deeply invested in children in a vastly different way as they are adults is a vital change to navigate. I worked hard on that. God helped me and the relationships are strong. But five years ago, a change threatened to rock my identity. I had been a deeply satisfied wife for all but twenty-one years of my life. Forty-five years with Charlie made me solidly Mrs. Brenda Young. His sudden death placed me in a whole new category. I suddenly was half of a whole. Most of my friends still had intact marriages. Books I read and people I observed prepared me for a momentous struggle. Coming home every day to an empty house would cause grappling daily with the fact that “wife” no longer actively and accurately described me.

Then COVID proved to us it was not going away and plunged the nation into drastic measures for everyone’s good. It did me as well. My autoimmune disease was a problem. For months even my children could only visit sitting on chairs in the driveway as I sat on the porch. Since there was no end in sight, it only seemed wise for the good of the church I pastored to hasten my retirement. So, I moved it up and retired several years before Intended. I was a pastor at Cornerstone Church for forty-two years, almost twenty-four of them as lead pastor.

Three major life changes happened to me requiring major adjustments in life; only letting go of our children to lead their own lives was the one I wanted to choose. All were challenging and bring tears to my eyes even as I write this. Two dearly loved roles and descriptors for me had suddenly vanished. Life happens. They were losses I had to grieve. But they are not simply tears of loss or sadness. They are tears of wonder at God’s work in my life. He is faithful, and life is so good because my true Identity is still solid. I am God’s dearly loved child. I am chosen. I am royalty, showing God’s goodness to the world.

While those roles I had the opportunity and joy to fulfill were wonderful, they didn’t define me. Perhaps you have built a life around an identity like mom, friend, sister, daughter, employee—only to experience a loss you didn’t plan. Or maybe there is not actual loss now, but just an emptiness nothing seems to fill. We must remember that all of life’s roles are temporary. And NONE of them can give us the identity for which we truly long—only Christ can do that. A wrong source of identity leads to very poor decisions. When we get that identity firmly settled, we are gratefully able to give our best and experience joy as long as we are in that place, and then discover that life and God are still good when life changes.

  • My Father, You have entrusted me with my life as it is. Help me trust You when it changes. My primary identity is, “I am God’s much-loved child.”