Not as they appear!
AARP defines me as a “senior citizen.” I am some times mistaken for an innocuous little old white lady. I’m not.
I was raised in the not-so-mean streets of Pico Rivera California by blue-collar parents who grew up in Upstate New York. Mom was raised on a farm that is still in the family today. Dad was a country boy who could hunt and fish with the best. He taught his three girls to shoot hoops or a 22-caliber handgun with the same ease and skill.
Two younger sisters and I enjoyed private school and shared a large bedroom in our tiny stucco home nestled in a former orange grove by the San Gabriel River. There were three-square meals on the table every day, summers on our grandparent’s farm, presents under the Christmas tree.
The only thing missing for this little girl was a sense of approval. No matter what I achieved the “Atta-girl” I so desperately sought was never found. The welts from dad’s 50’s style of discipline healed long before the hurtful words delivered in anger and disgust.
No cheese down that tunnel!
My need for affirmation and approval launched a life-long pursuit of excellence that did little else than alienate me from my younger sisters and others. Awards in academics, art, athletics, even beauty failed to win the prize I sought… my parents approval. My sense of worth was defined by the deficit, my value measured by shortfall. I placed my worth in accomplishment, achievement and the opinion of others. My value was in what I did, not who I was. I didn't know what it meant to be loved just for who I am.
This predisposition set me up to make wrong choices in relationships. I settled for an abusive marriage, marrying someone who was quick to tell me I wasn’t enough. Hearing this familiar dialogue only made me try harder.
I endured tragedy, trial, and trauma. I joined the conspiracy of silence that often accompanies domestic violence and didn’t tell best friends of my husband’s multiple infidelities. I endured for fifteen years, finally ending the marriage in divorce.
I spent the next few years as a single parent. I started going to church and even committed my life to Christ, sort of. My half-hearted relationship with Christ left me with one foot in the Word and one foot in the world. Even though I failed to see it, sin was keeping me separate from God, and his blessings.
Having not learned from my mistakes I soon married another who took great delight in stealing both my life savings and my identity. He had many secrets and no ability to meet my needs. It didn’t last long.
So, a new definition found its way into my vocabulary, that of two-time divorcee! The culture I grew up in dictated this label was completely unacceptable. I felt there was a neon light illuminating the word “LOOSER” on my forehead. It was humiliating, to say the least, for an over-achieving perfectionist like me to fail so miserably in marriage — twice.
I refined my skills in pretense and worked harder to convince others that I was fine. New outfits, relationships and career advancements were put on like expertly applied makeup only to wear off in the dawn of a new day. It looked like I was doing okay. I wasn’t.
I stepped down from serving in ministry and seldom went to church. When a friend from my small group died I attended his memorial service. I quietly slipped into the back door of the church and sat where no one could see me. I left the service early and, as I was walking back to my car, eyes filled with tears, I accidentally bumped into the pastor who had mentored me in ministry and facilitated the only counseling session my former spouse had been willing to attend. Pastor Kip, a big man, took me squarely by the shoulders and asked, “Where have you been?” With my head down I replied, “I am such a looser how could God possibly have use for someone like me?”
Pastor Kip’s reply was swift and sure, “Who better?” His comment struck me to my core. Who better?
I came away from this experience with a new depth of humility. I was confronted with my frailty and failure and the reality that in Christ I can do all things. In Christ I am a new creation! As a tool in his hands I can be used. I must get out of the way and allow his power to be perfected in my weakness and insufficiency. God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people when they are surrendered to his will and connected to his power source.
A step in the right direction
I continued the journey of faith I had begun a few years earlier with a renewed passion and enthusiasm. This time fully committing myself to absolute surrender and complete obedience. In this new relationship blessings abounded.
I availed myself to all of the education and skill building I could find including seminary. I learned that trauma, trial or tragedy could define, destroy or develop me. I chose develop.
In God’s Word I found the tools necessary to achieve this goal. The most important discovery I made was that in Christ I am loved for who I am. Jesus died for me on Calvary that I might spend eternity with him. All I must do to is just say yes to his invitation!
Motivated by the fact that Jesus first loved me and chose me to have a relationship with him my love for him transformed my thinking and my heart’s desire. This realization gave me new purpose and more importantly, a new identity. My significance was no longer defined by my achievements or the opinions of others. It was defined by my relationship with Jesus.
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Ephesians 1:4
I learned that I must take every thought captive. The alternative was to allow the loud, persuasive voice of the media, culture, friends and family dictate what I knew to be true.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Not to say there wouldn’t be challenges along the way.
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that we can do all things through him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
Pursuit of excellence
As I grew in the awareness of who Jesus is and what a relationship with him is I discovered hope, healing and purpose. I found that my identity is in Christ not in my achievements or the opinions of others. The truth of this reality set me free.
My story was redeemed by the love of Christ. Truth set me free and allowed me to pursue excellence with a new passion. I learned that the pursuit of excellence is about becoming all that God has designed me to be. It is being a good steward of my time, talents and treasure. It is developing the gifts and talents he has blessed me with. It is pursuing with passion the purpose he has for my life. It is learning to love him with all of my heart, mind and soul and others as myself. Simple, but not easy.
The expression of this excellence is my act of love in response to his love for me. It is my live lived in gratitude, confidence and trust for the one who redeemed me and called me by name.
“I have called you by name and you are mine!” Isaiah 43:1
Purpose and community
In the body of Christ I found community and the way to grow in relationship with him while serving others. With purpose and community central to my being I was free to be who I am in Christ rather than impress others with what I do. I am the daughter of a King! He has called me by name. I am a new creation in Christ!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)
Identity in Christ
I encourage you not to judge the book by its cover. Even when you’re looking in the mirror know that things aren’t always as they appear. His grace is sufficient, we are not. Power, wealth, age or beauty have their season. His grace transcends time.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)
As the son or daughter of a king you are unstoppable. Let your identity be in Christ alone defined by the relationship you have with him. Trust his provision. Discover the plans and he has for you. Passionately pursue the purpose he has designed you for. Let your life be a testimony to his faithfulness and give all the glory to him. Let your legacy be one of love rather than loss.
The most important part of your story is not what you did or did not do. The most important part of your story is not what was done to you. The most important part of your story is what Jesus did for you. Jesus died that you might live insuring that you will spend eternity with him.
You are sealed and secure in him alone. He redeems your story. His grace is more than sufficient. It covers your transgressions, trumps the gory details of your stories, and delivers you from shame, sorrow and insufficiency.
In Christ you are unstoppable. You are fierce.
Kathy is an author, spiritual mentor and founder of Hope Connection. You can connect with Kathy and learn more at: firstname.lastname@example.org