Have you ever asked yourself “Who am I?”
At different stages in life we ask ourselves this question. It’s usually a question we ask ourselves when we feel we’ve somehow lost a part of who we are. This tends to happen when we experience change in our lives. Our relationship status changes from ‘Single’ to ‘In a Relationship’ or visa-versa, our family grows or shrinks, our career changes or our spiritual journey takes a few turns in a direction we didn’t think it would ever go.
I feel like I’ve asked myself this question several times in my life. I can remember feeling like, “Okay, who am I now that I’ve switched careers? Is this a forever switch or stage in my working life?” I’ve also asked myself, “Okay, who am I now that I am married and living in a different city away from every social safety net?” I really lost a sense of self when I didn’t have family or childhood friends close by. It’s funny how much of whom we surround ourselves with shapes our sense of identity.
What gives us our sense of identity?
Obviously our gender, nationality, family, geographic location, spiritual beliefs, personality traits, passions and relationships all play important roles in shaping who we are. I don’t believe just one ‘thing’ defines us or gives us our identity. Although all these pieces can shape our identity, some play a more prominent role in shaping us than others. While faith and gender may be stronger forces that shape my identity, it may not be the case for someone else. A student may have his/her identity shaped by a diverse group of university friends, the high pace of a big city and have his/her beliefs shaped and challenged by scholars. A woman on the other hand may be strongly defined by her role as a mother. Her sense of identity comes from the love and care she gives to her children as well as the community of moms she surrounds herself with. Our sense of who we are is constantly being questioned (and might I say refined) as we get older and experience change.
“Don’t call me Naomi!” Do you think Naomi ever questioned her identity? From the statement above, I think she may have. Here’s her story:
Naomi is a wife and mother of two and an Israelite from Bethlehem, Judah, who leaves her home during a famine and settles in Moab. While in Moab she loses her husband, gains two daughter-in-laws and then loses her two sons. Naomi’s identity profile at the beginning of the story is an Israelite, a wife and mother from Bethlehem, Judah. Her identity profile quickly changes to widow, childless, living in Moab with two daughter-in-laws. Without a doubt, she must have questioned her identity – “Who am I now that I have lost both my husband and my two sons and I’m living in a place different from my hometown?” After having gone through such a drastic change, Naomi feels the Lord’s hand is against her (Ruth 1:13b). What an awful feeling! Her daughter-in-law Ruth encourages her by saying, “Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16b-17). Talk about someone being there for you when you really need it!
Together Naomi and Ruth head back to Bethlehem – a place familiar to Naomi. The town recognizes Naomi and exclaims, “Can this be Naomi?” Not feeling anything like the woman she was before she left Bethlehem (a married woman with 2 sons) Naomi replies with, “Don’t call me Naomi,” “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19b-21a). Have you ever felt like the life you built and the person you thought you were changed drastically and just like Naomi you felt like saying to others, “I AM NOT…! WHY CALL ME…?”
If we’ve ever sensed a lost of identity, I’m sure we can all relate to Naomi in someway.
Who am I now that cancer has changed my body? Who am I after pregnancy? Who am I now that I am single, married, divorced, a widow, mother or grandmother? Who am I now that am unemployed, a stay at home mom, in charge of the company or entrepreneur? Drastic change and even the littlest change in our life can make us question who we are. …and it’s okay to question our identity. While some things in our life don’t change, others do. Even the consistent day-to-day can leave us longing for something more and questioning who we are. Either way, when the question surfaces don’t shy way. Engage with your thoughts and emotions. Take inventory – Who are you now?
Ask yourself the question once again – “Who am I?” or “Who am I now?” What words would you use to describe yourself?
When I answered this question I noticed that I answered it in categories – Adjectives, Relational Connections, Faith and Role in Society. I would describe myself as:
- Adjectives: kind, quiet, thinker, creative, loving, sensitive, driven & responsible
- Relational Connections: wife, daughter, sister & friend
- Faith: Christian
- Role in Society: communicator, teacher, writer & role-model
When taking inventory of your identity remember the truth of God in your life:
- You are made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)
- You are designed for God’s purpose (You are called to a holy life of obedience and to bear fruit). (Matthew 16:24 & Galatians 5:22-23)
- You are his child and a part of a larger spiritual family. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
- You are forgiven and loved passionately. (John 3:16)
The story doesn’t end with Naomi feeling nothing like the person she once was -“Don’t call me Naomi” (Ruth 1:20). Through her dedication to Naomi’s care and instruction, Ruth marries Boaz, the ‘guardian-redeemer’ and Naomi receives the land that would have been hers if her husband and two sons had lived.Who are you now Naomi? A widow with a faithful and loving daughter-in-law who marries the ‘guardian-redeemer’ Boaz and becomes grandmother to Obed, and who’s great great grandson would be King David.
You are not forgotten, empty and without family, you are loved and your life has purpose.
*PICS – healthshire.com, quotesgram.com & play.google.com