Today, I was reminded that our identity – the core of who we are – looks different over time. This came up in the context of women, many of whom experience very different expressions of themselves over the course of their life due to phases of life.
Several years ago, when our youngest child was a few years old, Melissa felt it was time for her to take a break from work to give more time to the kids. We agreed that in order to love them (and me) well, she needed to shift her time and focus for a while. A leader in our organization just didn’t get it. He felt she was giving up on her calling – quitting living out who she is.
What he didn’t understand is that we live out who we are differently over time. When we are young, we live as ourselves at the time. We are still us, expressed appropriately for our age and situation. Are we all that we will ever be? No. Does that make us an less of who we are? No. An immature and developing me is still me!
It is true for all our lives. We are always becoming us. That doesn’t necessarily mean radical change (though I believe many of us have experienced some significant moments of shift). Rather, it is more about aligning and realigning ourselves to the person God has created us to be throughout our lives. With all the changes we experience, it makes sense that the real me appears differently (just as our physical appearance varies) over time.
I think of my mom, recently retired. She finally has time for some things in her life that are different – time, relationships, etc.. She is beginning some new hobbies and endeavors – some she will enjoy, others she may not. Is she becoming a different person? No. Was she untrue to herself all the years up until now? No. Because of her stage of life she is re-aligning herself to the true person she is for now.
I believe we are all made in God’s image, and God has gifted us each with a unique way of living that out. I suppose it is more obvious when we know someone their whole life. We know the PERSON and we see the ebb and flow of their various traits over time. Unfortunately, most of us are more hard on ourselves than we are on others.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you are not yet all you believe you can or should be. Don’t stress too much when you are in the process of changing something about yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do something now that you once did. You are still you! Ask God who you are and believe it. You might not see all of the real you at the moment. Of course not, you can’t be your whole life’s you right now! But God sees your heart – the person inside – all of you. And God loves you so much.