I walked into ministry in New York City fully confident that I rooted my identity in Christ. I knew the truth of my salvation served as the source I gained my strength from and from which I gave my strength away.
However, four months into this new job/lifestyle/calling/or whatever you want to label it has shown that I was probably a little too confident. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father does not waver by my lack of perspective.
Being shaped for God’s purposes
October was a month of having areas of my heart hammered into its proper “function,” much like shaping a piece of steel into its functional purpose. Let me tell you what I mean…
The struggle of perceived failure, the struggle of comparing and competing, the struggle of striving to prove you have done enough. These are the struggles of full-time, cross-cultural ministry. These are just some of the struggles of becoming a missionary.
The way these struggles rattled me, shook me, and distracted me show how much I still count on my “success” to tell me how I should identify. I was looking to my achievements to validate myself and my calling to ministry with Arab Muslims – to define my identity of being a “good” missionary.
What is good?
But what is “good” anyway? I am not “good.” My identity is nothing without Christ. Even Jesus says I can bear no “good” thing without him. And apart from him, I can do nothing (John 15:4-5). So why do I buy into the lie that I can?
I believe we allow this lie to whisper it’s way into our ear in all spheres of influence. We strive in the workplace to earn purpose, we strive in the home to prove our value. And worst of all, we to strive in our relationship with God to be worthy of righteousness.
We live in bondage to this world with a belief that we should achieve a level of “all is well” here. We even begin to believe we are deserving of it and fall into self-sufficiency, staying where things are comfortable and controllable.
To quote C.S. Lewis,
“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Why must it be pain? Why can’t He wake us more gently, with violins or laughter? Because the dream from which we must be awakened is the dream that all is well. Now that is the most dangerous illusion of them all.
Self-sufficiency is the enemy of Salvation.
If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God, if you have no need of God, you do no seek him, if you do not seek Him, you will not find Him. God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering, we release our hold on the toys of this world, and know our true good lies in another world. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.”
Why do we so often run and cling to the things of this world to define our identity?
It is because they are things we can understand, things we can explain, and things we can control. At least that is why I find myself constantly chasing after them. This demeans our true identity, however, which God conceived and purposed for us before even came into existance.
We are not made purposeless with loose ends waiting to be tied up into titles and positions this world has to offer us. Rather, we are made from the core of all creation. We are made from the identity of God Almighty, the artist of our reality.
Whether you have a secular job or seek to become a missionary like me, the real journey on this side of eternity does not include creating ourselves through success and achievements. Rather, it means rediscovering the idenitity fashioned and formed in us since the beginning of time.
We cannot find our true identity in the things this world possesses. Our identity stems from a heavenly one — one that supersedes the earthly reality in which we presently live.
This is the lesson God has been whispering to my soul in the quiet moments, and this has been my greatest takeaway from full-time ministry in New York City so far. Like I said, becoming a missionary is not always easy, but God is teaching me valuable lessons to help me grow in my walk with him and in my ministry.