Experiences Versus Identity - Another Post in a Series on Middle Age
There is something about turning forty-something. You suddenly realize that the years you look back on are more in number than the years you likely have to look forward to. You suddenly realize that in some areas of your experience, there are no do-overs. And - I do not care who you are, or how wonderfully you think you lived - you slowly realize you were not the daughter...or spouse...or parent...that you really, really wanted to be.
Because you filled all those roles the only way sinners know how - imperfectly, at best.
Suddenly, you have accumulated a cache of very, very painful experiences. What to do with the pain?
I have a friend, a dear friend, who came to the devastating realization that a grown child had slid into unimaginable, deviant sin. With all I have personally been through with my sons, what this friend discovered made me feel like I'd raised angels.
Regret. Even though none of it was her fault, the instinctive reaction was searing guilt. Don't we all feel it? When crisis hits one of our children, we suddenly remember every wrong, hurtful, thoughtless, weary, selfish thing we've ever done - accidentally or on purpose - in the course of our short season as mothers. No matter how hard we tried to do all we knew to be right...we, each and every one, fell short of the mark.
When you are twenty-something, and you fall short of the mark, you somehow think you have a few do-overs in your future. When you are fifty-something, all you can do is remember how you wasted a good many of your do-overs. Trust me on this. You better tap into the grace of God, now!
If there was ever a time to identify with who God says we are - middle age is the time.
In the Biblical account of the prodigal son, we call him the prodigal son, but he was really simply a son. We even sometimes refer to the father as the "Father of the Prodigal", but he was really a dad like any other dad.
Sometimes our perspectives are so skewed by our mistakes, our sin, and our devastating experiences, as to entirely misplace our identity. The "adulterous woman" was someone other than that to Jesus - just as a sterile man named Abram and his barren wife Sarai were to God the progenitors of nations.
Having a prodigal child is a difficult...beyond difficult...human experience. Unfortunately, it is an experience common to parents dating back to the garden of Eden.
But it is not an identity.
Being a single parent is a difficult experience - but it is not an identity.
Financial struggles are difficult - but they cannot be allowed to define you.
Losing someone you love to suicide is difficult. The urge to identify with the event can be compelling. The Preacher can tell you all about that - his father killed himself when he was eleven years old. As painful as the experience was, and still is, for him, it is not a part of his identity. He has never allowed it to be.
"If any man be in Christ, then he has become a new creation..."
No matter what we have already experienced - no matter what we will experience in the future - our true identity must not be those experiences, but rather we are to be found in the Gospel.
Dear one, your life is hid with Christ in God. You are not "the mother of a prodigal daughter". You are not a bankrupt human being, regardless of your bank statement. You are not a recovering alcoholic, a grieving parent, the child of an abusive parent, or even a cancer survivor. You may be experiencing one (or more!) of those events - painful beyond description, but your experiences must be kept separate from your identity, else you can never rise above the pain.
You are a much-loved daughter of a Father whose power and greatness is all surpassing - you are written into the Father's will, right alongside Christ Jesus. If it belongs to Him, it belongs to you.
You are righteous. You are blessed. You are favored. You are a delight.