Sunday, September 7, 2008


Has anyone ever asked you a question that you absolutely do not have an answer to? That happened to me tonight and for some reason it really bothered me. Tonight at small group John asked us all, "What is your identity? Who are you? What defines you?" I told all of the people in my group that immediately after those words came out of his mouth I started feeling sick to my stomach and I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. The truth is, I don't know. I don't know what my identity is. I know that I am a daughter of Christ and I know that my true identity comes from him. I have never doubted that. But even with that in mind, I don't think I know exactly who I am.
Growing up in Waterloo, IA, I was known as Dan and Sue Stephens' daughter, Nik's older sister, Crissa's younger sister. I was known as the quiet one. I had tons of thoughts running around in my head but I preferred to stay below the radar. I never really did anything to shake things up and I avoided calling attention to myself at all costs. My family was incredibly involved in our church, my mom was on staff and my parents devoted a ton of their time, passion and energy into the ministry there. It was a church of almost a thousand people but I feel like my parents knew everyone. Maybe it just seemed that way to my young, immature mind but I sometimes think that we were in the spotlight a little more than the average family. My parents were also very involved in my school. I went to a tiny private high school where EVERYONE knew EVERYTHING about EVERYONE. I guess it was always easy for me to identify with my family. My parents had an image and a persona that they upheld and I just tagged right along. I never really had to make much of an identity for myself because I knew that no matter what I did, no matter who I tried to be, I would always be known as Dan and Sue Stephens' daughter, Nik's older sister, Crissa's younger sister...the quiet one.
Now things have changed a lot. I went to college eight hours away from home. I knew exactly two people when I moved to Indiana Wesleyan University and I was able to make a new identity. I was able to start over knowing that no one there knew who I was. They didn't know my family and they didn't expect anything from me. For the first time in my life I was able to be me. I was able to freely and confidently act and think as an individual. I've always been independent and stubborn on the inside but this was a new feeling, something I had never experienced before. My freshman year of college changed me. I left school and went home that summer as a confident, independent young woman. I knew my convictions, I knew what I wanted, I knew who I was and I wasn't ashamed of it. For the first time I was proud to be me. Because of my new boldness and freedom I was able to make some incredible friends at school. I was able to connect with people and share my heart with them knowing that all they wanted was for me to be genuine. This was the first time in my life that I experienced true Christian community. God showed me how to live life with other people and he surrounded me with people that spoke life into me, people that built me up and people that challenged me in my faith.
Here's where it all changes. That year my world was rocked. My life was flipped upside down and I felt like the earth fell out from beneath me. I had spent 18 years living as Dan and Sue's daughter and even though I had become my "own person" that was still a HUGE part of who I was. Then that all changed. I found out on Thursday, January 12th that there was a small possibility my mom may have cancer. I went home on Friday the 13th and she died on the morning of January 14th. I stood in a hospital room and held my mom's hand while a pastor prayed over her and her heart stopped beating. I watched my dad kiss her forehead and I stared at him as his tears dripped onto her face. Then we walked out of that hospital room and my life has never been the same. This is something that I absolutely can not explain. It is impossible for one to understand something like this until you go through it yourself. I can not even begin to put into words all of the thoughts and feelings that were running through my head. I think my main question was, "What now? What am I supposed to do now? My mom is gone, therefore everything I have ever known is different." When you lose someone close to you, you lose a part of yourself. My mom was a part of me. I have her DNA, I have her eyes, I have her smile and I have certain parts of her personality. All of those things will always be a part of me but there is another part of me that died with her and that's what is so confusing now. How am I supposed to know my identity? How am I supposed to know exactly who I am, knowing full well that part of me is missing and will never, ever be replaced?
All I know is that I now, more than ever, I have to strive to be the woman that God has created me to be. I want to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful because of the way that I radiate Christ and the way that I allow him to shine through me. When people look at me I want them to think, "I see God in her." I want my identity to be fully and completely found in my relationship with Christ. Without him, who am I? What am I doing? What is the point to my humble life? I have so much growing and maturing and changing to do. I know my passions, I know what I love, I know what I want to do and who I want to be. Now I have to make sure that I follow those passions, that I pursue that love and that I do what I want to do and become who I want to be. So I guess right now when I am asked the question, "Who are you?" my only response is, I am a mess. I am an ever-changing, forever growing, straight up, complicated mess. But I'm God's mess and although I will never be perfect, I will always be His.