“Nothing ruffles you, Hope.” One of the directors at my former job had stopped to offer some encouragement, not knowing just how much I needed it. She’d been observing me, she said, and no matter who walked into my office and what problems students threw at me—I exuded calmness and peace.  

“Nothing ruffles you” couldn’t have been further from the truth, yet it echoed what many had said to me throughout my twenties—it was only loved ones who had seen the tears of exhaustion and shame as I strove to be a “normal” adult.

This calm and collected demeanor the director noticed is a well-worn veil I often don to mask the turmoil I feel. Though I’ve learned to outwardly thrive in the workplace—to act professionally and be a team player and meet deadlines with a smile on my face, I often burst into tears as soon as I reach my car.

This pattern has been going on for years. I’ve battled clinical depression for over a decade, and to stay mentally well, I can’t do as much as the average person. But in my desire to be “normal,” to “pull my own weight,” and to achieve “success,” I have often refused to accept my limitations and to stubbornly barrel through them. Throughout my twenties, I looked like a happy, high-achieving young woman who had a perfect GPA and won government grants, who adventured around the world with a smile on her face and had a blossoming career in higher education. The truth was a bit murkier—yes, I had achieved those things, but at a higher cost than most knew.  

I have often felt ashamed of my limitations, fearing that those close to me will resent and reject me if I cannot “pull my weight” by doing what they can do. Instead of facing that fear of rejection and allowing people to love me for who I am, I often respond to this shame by trying to achieve and prove my worth, seeking identity in my work ethic or job title.   

When I read the account of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23, I often focus on the wealth Jesus asks him to give up (“go, sell all that you have”), but it recently dawned on me that the title of “ruler” that defined this man’s identity would lose its meaning. He was a “somebody,” who had authority, but if he chose to follow Jesus, he would become a “nobody” who submitted to Jesus’ authority. Perhaps the potential loss of identity played as much a role in the rich young ruler’s refusal to follow Jesus as the loss of wealth did.

Perhaps the potential loss of identity played as much a role in the rich young ruler’s refusal to follow Jesus as the loss of wealth did.

But a new identity in Christ as a “nobody” is the most beautiful possible identity—to be defined by what He did for us, not what we have done—that is the Gospel. If Jesus’ love and redemption defines me, then I don’t need to prove my worth through my work.

When Jesus walked the earth, He responded in love and compassion to the weak who cried out to Him because they knew they couldn’t save themselves. And today, He does the same for me. He is not ashamed to call me His daughter because I am weak. His love for me has nothing to do with my worthiness, but with His own. Jesus is compassion embodied, and when I look to him with teary eyes, He doesn’t tell me to work harder, but to rest in Him.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for this reminder, Hope. When health issues took from me the ability to do many things (in my 30s), I mentally fought against the life I was left with and a future that didn’t look how I wanted it to. I wondered who would love or value me, and I felt like I disappointed everyone, including me. Eventually I came to an awareness God wanted me; He loved me; He wasn’t disappointed by me… and that gave me QUIET inside. I allowed my identity to rest in that place, as you are suggesting we do. That is the safest, most healing place for all of us, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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