Written By Hannah Shoue, USA
One of the latest buzzwords in today’s culture is “identity”. Whether it’s race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, or relationship status, there are so many ways we can identify ourselves.
Naturally, it can be confusing to figure out what our true identity should be. Even as Christians, we can place our identity in things other than Christ.
There was a time in my life where I lost myself in a desire for romantic relationships. When I was in high school, I craved being in a relationship and went through several failed relationships. Some were relationships that didn’t work out, and some were relationships that didn’t happen although I badly wanted them to. During the summer before my senior year of high school, I got to a point where I felt worn out, lost, and far from God.
One day, my thoughts drifted back to the time before I entered my first relationship. I remembered how in my earlier years of high school, I had felt so close to God that I didn’t worry about getting into a relationship. That’s when I realized that I had let my desire for a relationship get between me and God. I had stopped trusting the God of love stories to write my story, and instead had tried to take the pen and write my story myself.
After that realization, I decided I wanted to get close to God again. I wanted to give the pen back to God and trust that His stories for me would be infinitely better than anything I could come up with on my own.
However, this was easier said than done. I needed to re-center my identity back on Christ, and not let my relationship status define myself. Here were three things that helped me
1. Process my thoughts with God.
During the time I was trying to put God first again, I found journaling to be incredibly helpful. I’m a writer and word lover, so writing down my prayers to God helped me process my experiences.
I also noted down quotes or Bible verses in my journal that helped redirect my mind towards my goal of getting to know God better. During that time, one of the passages that reminded me of God’s nearness came from Psalm 73:23-26:
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
2. Re-orient my priorities.
Part of my problem was that I was focusing too much of my thoughts and energy on having a romantic relationship. My life was centered on my own desires instead of God’s desires for me.
When I realized the need to put God first in my life and get to know Him better, I began to re-orient my life around God. Whenever I started thinking too much about romantic relationships or feeling dejected because of being single, I would pray to God and remind myself that He has a plan for me.
This process is gradual. I still find myself worried, anxious, and uneasy about things going on in my life when I let my own desires take control. It is when I keep God at the center of my thoughts, decisions, and relationships that I experience peace. Even now, I still have to remind myself that putting God first is the most important and most rewarding thing.
3. Identify with Christ.
The knowledge that I am loved by God, and that God completes me and is all I need helps me to approach my life in a new way. Instead of searching for a partner to fulfill my own emotional and spiritual needs, I can search for a partner because I’m looking for a companion in the race God has called me to run.
There’s nothing wrong with desiring a significant other, or desiring other things, such as good grades or good friendships. But the difference is that when I identify myself as a child of Christ, I begin to seek those things with a Christ-like attitude of wanting to glorify Him (Psalm 37:4).
When I look back on my life, what strikes me most is that God didn’t wait until I had it all together before bringing a significant other into my life. When I first met David, it was during the fall of my senior year, when I was still working on getting closer to God and trusting Him with my romantic relationships.
But the biggest difference between my relationship with David and my prior relationships was that it was God who brought us together. David and I met at a Christian retreat, and were both at a similar place in our faith journeys. Early on in our relationship, we both shared how each of us had struggled in the past with desiring romantic relationships and a lack of trust in God. At the time we were getting to know each other, we had both been praying that God would reveal the right person to us in His time. That was one of the first things I loved about David—that he was trying to be intentional about his relationship with God like I was.
I prayed a lot before entering my relationship with David because my plans had been to wait for college to start dating again. But I decided to trust God with our relationship, and as we grew closer, I felt even more assured that my relationship with David was not against God’s will. I’m now in my second year of college, and I’m happy to say that David and I will be celebrating our two-year anniversary in December.
I do still struggle with misplacing my identity sometimes. It’s tempting to look to David to fulfill all my needs, but I’ve found when we trust in God and turn to Him together, we are then able to love each other best.