I once believed that I had to do morning devotions “right.” If I slept in, that meant I missed my opportunity and needed to make up for it because that was the right thing to do.
Despite knowing that no one is perfect, I felt that I had something to prove to God. I sought to do things right in all circumstances, though my rules for what was right were as murky as gutter water and unpredictable as my daily mood swings.
Even on the days I was productive in my own eyes, I was still unsatisfied. Something crucial was missing. Why did I not feel loved? I could never work hard enough to be worthy of love, no matter how many of the boxes I checked.
Clinging to the Fake Me
My ideas of identity—what defined the core of who I was—were tearing me down from the inside because it was based on my fluctuating performance.
I rejected the idea that God loved who I was. I believed He would want someone who was productive and contributing to His kingdom with useful gifts, not gifts like mine. I was insecure about my shy personality and my love for writing that seemed useless to the world around me.
So I worked hard to manage and maintain an identity that was put-together, which appeared attractive on the outside. Yet I found myself withdrawing and hiding insignificant things, like my love of children’s books, in shame because those were too immature for the image I wanted to project. I became judgemental of others, less patient, and above all—more anxious.
When I realized that the reason I felt so empty, exhausted, and stressed was that I spent so much energy displaying this fake self for God and others … I felt frightened. I had failed to become the person I thought God would love.
So if I could not earn God’s love by being “right” and productive, what then?
Fighting the Faker
Although I was very misguided in how I went about it, I desired to truly serve God. But in order to do that, I had to believe He loved me—weird, awkward, and childish little ol’ me.
Letting go of the fake identity I had created was terrifying. I listened to Satan’s lies that if God saw who I really was, He would lose interest and walk away. I spent many nights with tears streaming down my face saying, “Why do You want me? What about the self I made for You?”
But God confronted me. Scripture tells us that God is omniscient; therefore He already knew every sin, failure, and quirk of mine. There is no reason to try and hide because I literally could not. God is also abounding in steadfast love, which is both displayed in action and explicitly stated in the Word.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-5
Fake Me could not see it.
But something deep inside of me, something I was holding back, desperately wanted to believe it. Every time I read that verse it wanted to run to God like a lost child running to her parents.
Despite that, I am not the type who runs headlong into things, so I asked one question: “God, do you know what You are getting into?” I had to be absolutely sure He was willing to love me as I am, forgive my sins, and willingly restore me, or I would return to my unfulfilling, legalistic, and self-destructive religious habits.
He did know, because He is omniscient. Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows us. Even before we knew anything about ourselves and could create any sense of identity, He was there. There is nothing we can do to hide from God, and there is also nothing that can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39, Psalm 139:7-12)
The perfect love of God is secure when you believe in the redeeming work of Christ. When we believe this and serve God out of an overflow of abundant love in our hearts, our view of identity and worthiness is forever changed.
Cling to God
There is an interesting verse in Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish that says, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (Jonah 2:8)
In his prayer, Jonah expresses thankfulness at his deliverance from death but makes clear that those who cling to worthless self-made gods have turned away from the one true God’s love for them. We too have been delivered from death when we believe the gospel, but we must find our identity solely in Christ so we do not fall into the trap of making an idol out of our performance.
For a long time I tried to have it both ways—believing in the gospel I heard every Sunday while trying to prove I was worthy of God’s love every morning. But no one can serve two masters. I had to let go of my attempts to save myself and let Jesus be my Savior.
The process of letting go of the fake me and clinging to God was vulnerable and messy. It meant letting go of what I believed was “right,” accepting forgiveness for my sins, and being made new. Yet there is something beautiful about the whole process.
When I felt free to show God my real self, I started feeling lighter. I went on more nature walks and admired the flowers. I laughed at old Calvin and Hobbes comics. I stopped associating my church attendance as an indicator of my spirituality. I felt like a child again.
I found that when we cling to the God who loves us, other things fall into their proper place. Remember that God knew you even before you discovered that hobby you enjoy or met the friends you hang out with. That is why we ought to place higher value on His opinion of us than the opinions of others or our measurable performance at school or art.
Dear Rose, would you open your heart to God today? Maybe you have known the Lord for a long time, but have been afraid to get too close and fully let Him in. Today He invites you to stop clinging to whatever you used to define your identity with and cling to the God who loves you unconditionally instead.
Emily Bianchini is a church kid. Her passion is writing to other church kids about owning their faith. When she’s not writing, Emily loves spending time in God’s creation — she likes hiking, but she dislikes trails and prefers to blaze her own.