Who are you? To be honest, the issue of identity has plagued me for years. When asked the ever-common question like “tell me about yourself,” I’ve always wanted to curl up in a ball. I’ve never felt like the person I imagined I would become actually came true. Over the years, when the struggle of infertility seemed to define me, I’ve had a hard time fighting despair over what I felt my life was supposed to look like and the loss of my own expectations. To be honest, I only based my identity on fragile circumstances I thought I could control, and when I realized I had no control it was sort of hard to put one foot in front of the other.
For us, infertility meant building our family in a different way, through adoption. Adoption is born of loss. At the same time, adoption is a thing of exquisite beauty. Strangers become family, not through blood, but through intention. So much so, that studies have shown increased oxytocin levels in caretakers who were involved parents. The long and short of it is that even though you didn’t biologically birth a child, your blood chemistry can change based on care and commitment. But if we were living in a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary.
When my husband and I started the adoption process, loss was one of the biggest training points in our adoption education. Everyone in the “adoption triad” (the birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) generally come to adoption with a sense of loss. Adoptive parents may have suffered from infertility or miscarriages, birth mothers face the fact that they won’t be able to raise the child they carried, and adoptees will have to come to grips throughout their life with their identity that their families look different than everyone else’s. Older children who are adopted, even into loving homes, have vivid memories of their first parents and the trauma they endured. They often have a difficult time wrestling with their new reality or identity even if it is a good one. Oddly enough, they sometimes long for their first families even if they are in a more stable, loving, and permanent situation now.
Sometimes, as believers we can also struggle with identity. We want to embrace God’s promise that we are children of God, but we are confronted daily with our past sin, pain, loss, and disappointment. We long for stability, yet we put our identity in things that are temporary.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”
Our daughter is almost three years old and lately we watch a lot of animated movies (Thank you Disney plus!) If you’re not a fan of animation or Disney, bear with me for a moment, I promise I have a point. One of our daughter’s favorite movie series is Toy Story. In Toy Story 4, we’re introduced to Forky, a beloved friend and toy Bonnie, his kid owner, creates from items destined for the trash. Forky has a crisis of identity for most of the movie because he still believes he is trash and keeps running back to the trash can. The main character, Woody, keeps telling him, painstakingly, that Bonnie loves and values him. It takes much convincing for Forky to believe he does not belong in the trash bin. How many of you can relate? Knowing intellectually that we are loved by God but continually choosing the worthless things of this world because we don’t believe down deep that God’s love satisfies. God’s word tells us that we are holy and that we have great value, but yet often we do not feel holy. We do not feel like children of God. We do not feel worthy. We do not feel enough. Our past struggles sometimes scream at us that we are damaged, and even though it’s a lie, it feels more controllable to rely on the lie instead of trust in the whispers of God telling us the opposite. This leaves us disconnected from the one thing we truly need.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Simply put, sisters, God tells us who we are. We bear His image. The God who created every marvelous thing in nature, created us. Just as Bonnie fashioned Forky out of items that were destined for the trash and created her most valuable toy, God created us with design, intention and gives us our value. Christ became sin and gave his very life for us so that we could be saved from destruction. If we identify with our circumstances, we’ll find fear, brokenness and insufficiency. But just like Forky, we must constantly remind ourselves of who we are in Christ until His voice is louder than the voice of the enemy who tells us we are damaged. We must draw close to him as our Dad, even when we feel disconnected to that reality.
God is saying to us, “You are mine, and I take joy in you. You are my heart.” That kind of miraculous love is transformative, isn’t it? When we believe that, miracles are possible. God is not limited by bloodlines or brokenness. The same God who grafted wild branches into a natural tree is more than capable to transform sinful or broken orphans into children of God.
“After all, if you were cut out and grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.”
Sometimes answers to the past are not readily found, but God is always near even when we don’t understand. Living in our new identity is a choice to believe in the unseen. We must cross the divide from what we know to be true and step out in faith as if our heart believes that it is true. We intentionally choose to walk in the truth of who God says we are, even when our circumstances don’t live up to what the world views as success. And when we do, we step back and watch the miracle maker write a story more fantastic than we could’ve ever written.
WRITTEN BY: LORI GREGORY
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