I still remember the first time I overheard my mother telling someone at church that I wanted to be a special education teacher so I could help children like my younger brother. I was probably not beyond third grade. I was surprised to hear her say it because I had never said those words to her. I was not even in the zone yet of thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
My mother’s statement came from her own hope and desire as she watched me try to patiently help my brother learn small things by playing school or to manage his temper which could explode far too easily it seemed. She often could feel overwhelmed as I gave her some small amount of help.
Those words spoken, along with other things, began to define me within my family. As a result, I began to define myself that way. It happens easily when the authority figures in our life speak things about what we will be or do, who we are.
Statements such as this begin to shape our thinking about ourselves. Those things are not necessarily negative, but they can tend to narrow our scope of vision and perspective.
It can take so long to figure out who we are. At the beginning, we are profoundly impacted by who and what our family says we are. Some of the ingredients in that mix includes the culture we are a part of, the neighborhood, state, or country we live in as well as our socioeconomic status and the level of our parents’ education.
If we are blessed to have families that speak life and hope into us, the things we hear about what defines us give us a positive sense of who we are and hope for what we can do. If those things are negative or hopeless, we have difficulty believing in ourselves.
Teachers and peers begin to put more data into the data bank adding to the information that influences our thinking. Initially, all this information goes in unsorted and unevaluated.
Little by little we begin to believe we can or we can’t be or do something.
One of the things that makes all this such a big challenge is that we do not have enough lived experience to be able to determine the accuracy of the data that is put into the hard drive within us
We don’t yet have the benefit of knowing our unique original design. Somewhere in a biology class we might begin to learn about how genetics works so that each person, plant, tree, and animal (every created thing) is an original even though we have characteristics of the family in which we were born.
The most exciting discoveries about who we are come when our hearts recognize Jesus and accept Him to live within us. It is then we begin to learn the truth about who we are, whose we are, and what we can be.
It can take a bit to allow those truths to take root and begin to grow. We need to learn what the Lord says about us. We need to sort through what does not fit on the hard drive where we have been accumulating data for the whole of our lives.
Recently, as I was reading Ephesians in The Message version of the Bible, two verses leaped out to confirm this process:
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Eph. 1: 11-12
Wow! How exciting that is!
And I love this version of that passage. (I often will read several different translations or versions of a passage I am reading and reflecting on.)
Now some of you may wonder if I really ended up becoming a special education teacher. The answer to that is “Yes, but…”
The influence of my parents and some natural teaching abilities led me to earn degrees in both elementary education and special education. I spent 15 years tutoring or teaching in the area of special education.
But, as the Lord opened my heart, mind, and spirit to hear more of His design of me, He led me on an adventure into multiple areas and several different careers. The adventure continues each day and in each new season.
Never discount His design of you and the possibilities in His heart for you.
In John Eldredge’s book, Sacred Romance, he sums it up this way:
“Identity is not something that falls on us out of the sky. For better or worse, identity is bestowed.”
What does He want you to discover today about what He placed inside you that makes you truly an original?