In the past, if you ask me, “what do you do for a living?” as most men will ask one another, you would have heard me say “I work as an auto mechanic.” But you would have never heard me say, “I am an auto mechanic.” Because what I do to make a living is not the sum total of who I am.
I am many things, I am complex.
First and most important, I am a child of God. Second, I am Janet’s husband. After that, I am Dad, father to my three children.
But I also see myself as many other things. I am an ordained minister who has been called into the ministry for more than thirty years now. I am an ordained elder of a very large church with responsibilities to serve the people of our church as a lay pastor. I am, along with my wife, leaders of a marriage ministry at our church called, “Marriage Builders.” I am also a writer. I’ve learned to allow myself to say that this past year from Jeff Goins.
So those are the “I am” statements that I will allow myself to make. But, I refuse to say “I am a mechanic.” Although there is nothing wrong with working as an auto mechanic and I believe in the importance of having godly people in all trades and professions.
But for some reason this has been an identity issue for me and the fact of the matter is I have struggled all of my adult life with accepting and approving of myself for what I do to make a living. And I know my marriage has suffered a great deal because of this struggle.
There have been many times this issue has caused me to be obsessed with “what do I want to be when I grow up?” kind of thinking, to the point that it would be all I want to talk about, think about, and pray about. And so very often I would put my issue above my relationship with God, my wife, and my children.
In our home we had the problem of “if Dad’s not happy, nobody will be happy.” So if I wasn’t venting about my daily struggles with work I was turning on a ballgame or some other TV program so I could drown out my stress while dreading having to face the same issue the next day.
This issue has caused me to lack vision for myself and vision for my family. It has crippled me as a leader in my own home. It has caused us financial problems. It has even caused us to lose our own business because the whole time we had our own shop from 2008 to 2011, my heart was never fully in it. I was constantly in a battle between where my career could take me and where I wanted my ministry calling to take me.
So now after all these years I feel I have finally got a grip on this thing. I have finally found an “I am” term that I can be satisfied with. And because of this one term I can feel hopeful about our future no matter what it is that I do for a living. This term is simply this, “I am an ambassador of the Kingdom of God.”
Why does this subtle shift in my identity have such huge potential for my life, my marriage, and our future?
It’s all in the word “kingdom.” All these years of my struggle I have been trying to build my own kingdom and it has brought me a lot of misery and confusion. But once I accept my role in the Kingdom of God I get to benefit in two ways.
First, the pressure is finally off of me. I don’t have to worry about accomplishments, under-achievements, regrets, status, or any other form of personal success in my own kingdom. I don’t have to worry about measuring up to other people’s expectations of me. And I get to enjoy being the person God has created me to be. I get to like me for who “I am.”
Secondly, I don’t have to live with the battle of constantly doing one thing while being separated from the things I really want to do. As an “ambassador of the Kingdom of God” I get to live out this identity full-time no matter where I go, who I’m with, or what I’m doing. As an ambassador I get to represent the Lord in the way I repair someone’s vehicle, in the way I love my wife and children, or in the way I minister to couples in our class.
Why am I saying all this?
I know from our experience that identity issues can be huge and all-consuming and this type of self-absorbed issue can be very destructive to a marriage. So I hope my own confession here helps bring this issue into the light and encourages others to resolve this issue even if it means reaching out for third part help.
Questions: Have you experienced identity issues? and has it caused trouble in your marriage? Feel free to share your comments.