For years I have prayed to be a person of influence — one who as a missionary, a writer and especially a missionary writer, could point people to Jesus. But with my recent job loss, I realize I may have been holding too tightly to those identities: missionary, writer and missionary writer.
The rich young ruler also faced a question of identity — see Mark 10:17-27. “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor,” Jesus instructed him. The young man went away sad, Mark reports, because he was a man of great wealth.
What if the rich young ruler’s story is more a lesson about holding too tightly to an identity than holding too tightly to possessions?
All the “relational commands” Jesus mentioned to him — do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery — the man had kept “since his youth.” He treated people as the law required. But to sell all his possessions? That would have meant a loss of position, influence and identity.
Although I’ve taken administrative leave, cleaned out my desk and am no longer working in the office, my last official day of IMB employment is Feb. 26. In 17 days when I “graduate from IMB,” I will lose positional influence and identities I’ve held for 17 years.
Until those identities were scheduled for extinction, I didn’t realize how tightly I’d been holding on to them.
Oh, sure. I’ve offered them up numerous times throughout the years in moments of challenge, frustration or loneliness. “If this isn’t what you want me to do, please show me! I don’t have to be a writer!” I remember saying to God after one particularly brutal editing review. Still, I stayed.
For the rich young ruler, losing his identity as a person of wealth and influence was just too big a cost. He went away sad.
How will I respond? Will I walk away sad? Or will I take the risk to follow Jesus anyway — devoid of a title respected in Christian evangelical circles — into a future He has planned for my good and His glory? Phrased that way, it’s a total no-brainer. My identity isn’t rooted in a title, a task or an organization! My identity is in Christ alone.
“In Christ alone, my hope is found.”
I am excited, hopeful and looking forward to this next season of learning to trust in Him alone. Whatever it is, it’s going to be good.
How is God teaching you to trust Him? How have you dealt with issues of identity? I’d love to hear your stories, too.