Over the past few months, I've been reminded of some powerful lessons about walking out our identity in Christ. I'm pretty vocal about speaking life over people, reminding them who they are, and offering coaching on how to see God's gifts and calling in their lives. Some people receive this encouragement with excitement, find the strength to walk out this identity with humility, and even “slay the dragons” that attempt to keep them back from being all God calls them to be. Others walk away with a sense of entitlement and attempt to carry out their calling without fully embracing the discipline and courage to crucify their flesh and follow godly principles that lead to true fruit. In my personal life, the more I discover God's plan for my life, the more I come to constant forks in the road that require me to either take the “high road” and walk it out or simply turn my back on God's plan. Walking out your identity takes a lot of courage.
We all love the story of the Ugly Duckling: the awkward, misfit chick who lives among the ducks and eventually discovers his true identity as a swan. However, this discovery still requires a choice: will he shift his mindset from duckling behavior to that of a graceful swan? Or will he still carry the habits of duckling-hood into his adult life as a swan?
One difference between ducks and swans is that ducks can drink saltwater from the ocean, while swans typically do not. In this picture, I captured the photo of swans on a Scottish beach where the ocean is known to be especially salty. This “ballet of swans” (which is what a group of swans is called) swam along the shoreline for quite a while until they came to a place where a fresh water stream flowed into the sea. They could drink the water because it was near to the spring's mouth, and it was a beautiful moment to watch them quench their thirst.
Just like the swan, we must have courage and discernment, feeding ourselves with that which is healthy for our new identity. It takes fortitude, determination, and a commitment to follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us to discern the fresh water that will truly satisfy our thirst and make us strong. Choosing to be discerning and take initiative is part of embracing our true identity.
Prayer: Father, please show me who I am in You, and teach me how to walk this out every day. Give me the strength and fortitude to become discerning and hear You clearly as I grow in my identity in Christ.
To unpack more of your identity in Christ, read Bible studies on the topic of authentic beauty, and find personal questions to help you grow, pick up a copy of my new book Finding Beautiful! It's hardcover with full color photos and 12 makeover stories of young women who help us define God's perspective of beauty for women today.
I created this photo to show an unusual door in a wilderness, representing times where God shows up in unique ways when life looks hopeless. I love the promise in Hosea where God speaks to the nation of Israel who is going through a very difficult time:
There I will give back her vineyards to her
and transform her Valley of Troubles into a Door of Hope.
Hosea 2:15 The Living Bible paraphrase
A real life example of this can be found in the makeover story I captured of Katherine Chapman, a young woman with a heart for beauty and a message of hope that we can all relate to.
As we filmed on a back porch in Southern California, I could immediately tell that Kat wanted nothing less than sincere authenticity in every part of her life- including our interview. She told her story with the same transparency she lived, daring to touch every emotion in its purest, uncluttered form and treasuring the sacredness of each one. She wanted us to meet her joy and pain, and feel at peace with both, because she was.
As a child, Kat had longed for beauty. One day, crammed into the station wagon with her siblings, she had spied a ballerina figurine in a dance studio window and voiced her dream.
“Someday, I'd like to be a ballerina.”
“You can't do that,” one of her siblings scoffed, “because ballerinas are beautiful.”
Mortified, Kat's shoulders slumped with shame. I guess my dreams of being beautiful, glorious, and known are of no value, she mused.
Years later, when Kat married and entered motherhood, she found herself facing a new kind of shame. After seven miscarriages (including four in one year) she felt like a failure, since her body was unable to protect the little child she wanted so badly to love. After one particularly traumatic miscarriage, she wrapped the tiny body of her child and dug a grave in the cold dirt of her backyard. Weeping, she told her husband,
“I don't want to be God's needy little girl – I want to be strong, and bold, and brave.”
“Maybe that's it,” her husband responded. “Maybe God doesn't want you to be strong... maybe He just wants you to be His little girl and let Him hold you.”
Slowly, Kat started realizing she didn't need to perform for God's approval, and that He wasn't ignoring her pain. She could feel every moment and talk to Him about it, leaning on Him for strength, and enjoying the moments of beauty that He sent her way.
One day in the shower, Kat began to pinpoint the battlefield in her mind. Itemizing the lies that tormented her, she isolated the attacks and began to call them out.
Fear- I'm afraid of singing in front of a microphone
Doubt- what if God doesn't meet my needs?
Hopelessness- am I valuable enough to merit God's love?
I will only bow my knee to You, God! She vowed. These other 'gods' that want my attention are not going to win!
There in the shower, she began to sing the words:
I will follow
I will pursue
I will seek You
Above any other
Above any other god
Above any other love
Above any other name
Little did she know that this song would become an anthem during a worship movement that swept her city, and this simple chorus would bring healing to people who needed a voice to express their pain and trust in God. Kat's Valley of Trouble had become a Door of Hope.
Read Kat's full story in the book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.
As a potter working a piece of clay on the wheel, I get messy right along with the clay. The process of transformation isn't clean or simple, it's raw and real as my hands reach inside the pot to bring purpose from this piece of dirt. Not for the faint of heart, the process of “becoming” requires vulnerability from both the potter and clay.
In a society that often revolves around Instagram and social media, it can be easy to paint the picture that life is perfect or that we have everything together. But isn't it often the messy places in life that God uses as a testimony of His faithfulness? If we don't let people see the mess that God is transforming, we keep them at arms' length, and true, authentic relationships never happen.
Jesus models healthy vulnerability for us. He chose 12 raw, imperfect men to hang out with for 3 ½ years and they got to see what life was like for Him. Every time Jesus was rejected, tested with the temptation to compromise, or was offered extravagant praise, they got to watch the process and see how He walked it out. Without Jesus' vulnerability, his close disciples would never have seen first-hand what it meant to live out the gospel every day. He said,
You are the ones who have remained with Me in My times of testing.
Jesus also had great boundaries: he wasn't afraid to be authentic and real, but he was never co-dependent on the people around him. He knew when to reserve His battles for prayer, pouring out His heart to the Father, and when to honestly share with others difficult things that were happening or going to happen. In the same way, sometimes we need to guard our hearts and emotions, working through life's difficulties with close friends and the Lord. Other times, when we open up and share about the "messy" parts of life, it allows God to be glorified as we walk out the difficult parts of life with Him.
For my book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World, I interviewed Charla, a young woman who was incredibly brave to open her past and give us a glimpse of her journey for the chapter Beautiful Vulnerability. She shares about growing up in a home where her father was the song leader at their Christian church, but the abuse and controlling behavior behind the scenes was deeply damaging to her heart. Charla wanted nothing to do with the picture of Jesus that was painted by her parents. At the age of 16, she became pregnant, and her family helped her to have an abortion to save face in the church. Devastated by the experience and the mocking of her school mates, Charla began to read the Psalms and cry out to God from her misery.
Slipping into a little country church, she heard the visiting preacher play guitar and share the gospel. Something new and precious touched Charla's heart... Jesus died for ME... He loves ME! Although she had memorized John 3:16 and could quote Bible verses all day long, she had never had an encounter with the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Sobbing, she ran to the altar and was radically touched by God.
You can read more of Charla's story and her healing road from abortion in the book, Finding Beautiful. Through her vulnerability, we get a picture of God's love and the tender way He woos and wins us to His heart.
Prayer: Father, help me to experience Your love in the messiness of life, and be vulnerable to share both the joys and triumphs of the journey, knowing You are faithful each step of the way.
For Charla's "after" shoot, my friend Nancy Warner styled a stunning table just for her. In a beautiful garden overlooking a small lake, we wanted to show how the Lord spreads a feast of restoration.
To read the full story of Redemption and discover moments of beauty in your world, pick up my book Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.