One of the largest challenges I faced on a consistent basis in life surrounded identity, purpose, and rest.
As the youngest (I mean 14 years younger than my eldest sibling kinda young), I had everything mapped out for me. In one regard, this made life easy. I had two older siblings as a point of reference, along with my mom, grandmother, and plenty of older cousins. I had little drama during grade school once I realized the perks of having an older brother and sister there to defend. I matured quickly, and knew all the cool folk, trends, and happenings. However, there was little room for my input. After all, I was the baby. What did I know?
Many of my decisions were laced with underlying influence from my loved ones. There was spoken and unspoken pressure to follow in shadows and to take every drop of solicited and unsolicited advice. It became easy early on to develop and accept a passive disposition. Hannah outside of the home proved to be much different, though. I took on a prominent, somewhat bold persona among my peers and colleagues. It wasn’t some sort of phenomenon resulting from a split-personality conflict. This was actually who I was, the Hannah that emerged when she wasn’t silenced or stifled, or timid. However, this also birthed much inhibition, people pleasing, and extra energy given to trying to find my own voice and identity.
As I became a woman, there were many false identities that I pledged allegiance to. Identities that were placed in the driver’s seat of my life that would dictate every part of me. Identities that were never deemed 100% error proof, yet I held on to them as they defined me. After all, it was my last name. It was my heritage. It was my degree. It was my occupation. It was my image. All these things became idols and titles. The pursuit of life became all about obtaining and upholding these identities because wasn’t that what we as humans thought we should do? It didn’t seem so overt initially, but in being real with myself, I was doing things because of what the world impressed on me (family included). I hunted status, wealth, impact, knowledge, beauty, individuality, and my own path. A “unique” path curated by a mere human (me) who had never been here before and was essentially flawed. I began knowing something was wrong after suffering 10+ years of what I now realize was loneliness, depression, deep dissatisfaction, and fear. I was clinging to a load of things that were truly meaningless. They weren’t a real part of my identity, they were only things that were accepted and clung to as identity. I had accomplishments, but no rest. I had relationships and family, but no rest. I was smashing goals, and still deep within, there was no rest. By rest, I mean unwavering certainty, consistent peace, authentic joy, assurance, and emotional relief. During that 10-year span, I couldn’t help but wrestling with the thought daily, “There has got to be more to life. Something’s missing.”.
The truest form of identity, purpose, and rest I have found lies in my faith in Christ. Despite being raised in a Christian home, I subscribed (knowingly and unknowingly) to many world views and standards. I didn’t realize that in doing so for many years, my heart not only grew cold, but it hardened. What began as a few questions about God grew into a full arsenal of debates, doubts, disbelief, and self-reliance. Because I couldn’t quite fit this God into my mold, I had some major issues with Him. I dismissed Him, but still walked under the helm of being a Believer. This type of hypocrisy gave birth to a plateau type of faith, one that was surface based, fluctuating, and totally powerless. It was sometimes warm, sometimes cold – but never hot. Again, no clear-cut identity.
Identity holds accuracy in our function and understanding of who we are, and true identity isn’t something you live life trying to find, it is Divinely given. I recently heard a quote that translated this so deeply for me, “You were born because of purpose, not to find it”. I was living up to identities that I chose to adapt based on who I thought I should be, who I personally wanted to be, and what I thought (based on society’s directive) was cool or appropriate for me to be. I somehow believed that identity was something that I had to work to build and maintain because I desperately wanted my own individuality. How far from the truth this was! It wasn’t something that my family determined for me. It wasn’t something that my status or accomplishments or bloodline even determined. It was something that if all those things were stripped away would still be there. As I veered further from who God called me to be, I met the inner dissatisfaction that birthed that toxic emotional life with no rest. The real struggle was rooted in my resistance to an identity and purpose that was mine before I was me. I exchanged God-given identity for manmade mediocrity.
How has this shaped Hannah today? It has shaken everything about me – my thoughts, awareness, image, reliance, desires, attitudes, and faith. There is an undeniable assurance of freedom that I have. The sting of hopelessness and overwhelm has been totally dissolved. This has not only given me a deeper desire and love for Christ, but it has caused me to let myself and everyone else off the hook. There is a new depth, weightlessness, and grace added to my life and it looks nothing like those identities I carried. It has taken me off the people pleasing wheel and the treadmill of human-set standards and expectations. In it not being about me anymore, my only aim is to live a life of obedience to God that I will be proud to give an account for one day. I can walk effortlessly in who Hannah was created to be – since everything is already there for it.
I talk more about the powerful moment my life changed on a cold winter night in the parking lot of a grocery store in my forthcoming eBook, “The Sound of Deliverance”. Be sure to check my social media handles periodically for release information, prayers, worship, devotionals, and more.