Last week I wrote about how we should care what people think but not about how they judge us. If you haven’t read that one I suggest you check it out now because this post is going to tag onto that one in a few ways.
If you’re like me, you’ve struggled to keep performance away from your identity. That is, not allowing success or failure move the measure of your worth and value. In the last post I shared about how getting more time on the fire engine was like moving from a warm blanket to a cold one, and how it brought up a lot of insecurities that made me want to center my worth around my performance.
And it’s not just with the newish responsibilities. One of the hardest things to do is maintain our unchanging worth and value in the midst of failure or even success. For me, each book sale is an opportunity to feel better about myself and a lack of sales an opportunity to feel worse. Working out or not; eating healthy food or junk; writing every day or blowing it off; getting that time with God or missing it; VIM was good and people got healed or who knows. These are some of my examples—what are yours? What are the things that bring you up and down and what are the things that seems to always be tied to your worth and value?
There’s gotta be a better way! Infomercial time. Just kidding but not kidding. I feel like we’re missing something if we have to be constantly reminding ourselves that how we succeed or fail doesn’t make one iota of difference to who we are.
The more we understand something the more it’s supposed to just become part of who we are—ingrained into our hearts so that we begin to live it naturally. That’s the abundant life of Jesus; that’s part of what it means to come alive with him. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of having to remind myself of how performance doesn’t change my identity and want it to just become part of who I am!
So I’m going to share with you something that has really helped me in this area. A couple of things actually.
To be completely honest right up front, the things I’m about to share have been straight up stolen from my father, Marlin Birkey. But don’t worry, he’s a therapist so if he has issues with me stealing his material, he can work it out with himself. Cheers dad!
Here we go. Imagine two boxes or go ahead and draw them if you want. They are side by side. The one on the right is titled, Identity, and inside we write words like:
- Unsurpassable worth
- Unsurpassable value
If God lays a few more words on your heart, go ahead and toss them in there. This is the TRUTH box and it never changes. It doesn’t matter what happens around the box because it’s secure and strong. Nothing can ever be taken out of it. God has ascribed all of this to us and they are true all the time (I know I’ve said that a lot but it’s important to understand that this box never changes). When we live in this box we always know where we stand.
Now the second box is on the left and at no point do the boxes touch or intersect. The two boxes are completely separate. The one on the left is called, Performance, and inside we write words like:
- Opinions of others
And any other words you feel led to throw in. This box changes all the time. In this box we understand what it means to be human. There will be times we succeed and times we fail; one day people will love us and the next we hear a nasty rumor; we’re really good at some stuff and not so great at others; we hear God really well one morning and have an amazing experience, and the next morning can’t seem to connect with him at all; we pray and someone gets healed, and the next person is like, “Yeah, I don’t feel anything.” When we live in this box we never know where we stand.
And here’s one of the most critical things to understand: Emotions live with performance. Now there’s nothing wrong with emotions. They are a part of who God is and so they are a part of who we are. One of the most significant times in my life was when my emotions were set free. We’re not really alive if we’re not feeling emotion. BUT one of the most freeing things for me was to discover that my emotions have no power to shift my identity. Understanding that fact allows me to rejoice success and grieve failure while my identity stays perfectly safe!
No matter how high I am on success or devastated with failure, my sense of worth and value doesn’t change even one little bit because the boxes have nothing to do with each other. My identity is secured in the perfect love of God and so is yours.
And now, to wrap up, I’ll swipe a line from Kara. She said, “If you can’t do it from rest, don’t do it at all.” The next time you’re about to do something and performance twists your stomach stop and picture the two boxes. Then let God know you’re not gonna take one more step until you know he is with you and how loved you are. The twist is gone and rest is back.
Jesse and Kara Birkey
You can read about the day my emotions were set free in, Life Resurrected: Extraordinary Miracles through Ordinary People.