Back about 7 years ago, when my husband and I first moved to the Philadelphia area, we were fortunate enough to get connected with a church. When we first started attending we wanted to get to know the people of the church in a more intimate way, so we started attending a small group that gathered on Sunday evenings. One of the very first times that we were there, one of the ladies was asking me questions about what I do during the day and I was telling her that even though I was pregnant and wanted to be a stay at home mom, I was in school to finish my college degree. In the most loving way possible, she looked at me and said something along the lines of this: you know you don’t have to finish college just because your family tells you that you do or because you feel under pressure or that you will be judged if you don’t finish school. If you plan to stay at home with your kids, it may not be the wisest decision because you wouldn’t use your degree and it would put your family in debt. Just don’t let finishing college define you.
At first I was a little taken back by the conversations, but God had planted a seed in my heart at that moment that would continue to grow for years. After that initial conversation, I started to think about school and if it was really something I needed to complete. I knew it was something I wanted, but was it best for my family? God started working on my heart as I examined who God created me to be and what God created me for. God was telling me that He created me for a specific purpose and it didn’t matter if I finished school, became successful, or even if I was the best mom. He created me to live for Him and proclaim His name. I didn’t need to define myself or discover my identity in my college degree;
I needed to find my identity in Christ.
I did not realize at first that God was doing some major reconstructing in my heart. As I continued to pursue my degree God was working in my heart to make it about Him, not about me. I didn’t want to finish college just because I felt that I needed the degree to define me, I wanted to finish college to make much of God and serve others.
As I surrendered myself to God and searched out His will for my life, I began to hide myself in Him and open up my heart to what He wanted for my life. Romans 12:1 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” God knew exactly what the future held for me, I just needed to surrender myself to Him and follow where He wanted me to go.
As the completion of my degree became closer, I became frightened and anxious that I needed to know exactly what I was going to do with my degree once I graduated. This pressure turned into a burden that I did not realize I was carrying. It wasn’t until I was at Refresh Summit two years ago that I stopped and took the time to listen to what God was trying to tell me. He was saying to me, I am right here. I want to carry this burden for you. Cast your burdens on me, so that your hands may be free to pick up your cross.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
My friend Amia describes it perfectly with the following statement:
The cross represents the promises of God.
The cross represents our redemption.
The cross represents our freedom.
The cross represents our forgiveness.
The cross represents our purpose.
The cross is our identity.
Pick up your cross and carry these promises…
It can be easy to define ourselves by worldly standards and identify ourselves by the title in our name or how much we have accomplished on earth. But God calls us to be here on earth to live on mission for Him, not to define ourselves by the world we live in (John 17:14-18). We need to continually seek our identity in Christ. As we do this, we will not see ourselves as just a…
We will see ourselves as forgiven, accepted, adopted children of God who live to do His work.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.