Have you ever wanted to die? I distinctly remember sitting on a plane preparing for landing, when it hit a patch of turbulence that jerked us so violently it seemed we would crash. As the other passengers’ faces turned to horror with loud gasps and cries, all I could think was: “Yes! Thank God I’m going to die.” Around the same time, I also recall moments of driving down the freeway alone and wishing my car would somehow swerve off a cliff with the same result. While it’s been almost twelve years since these dark moments, I share this because what led me to suicidal thoughts was an identity problem I think is truthfully quite common. While identifying myself with my marriage, job, thoughts, politics, actions, and such led me to wanting to die, finding myself in Christ has brought peace, joy, and love that passes understanding.
As much as part of me wished it wasn’t true, I’ve found failing big and falling hard on your face is one of the greatest gifts life can give … when we receive it. To put this another way let me ask: Who are YOU, when you have and do nothing?
Back in 2006 I was living the dream. I had a prestigious, well paying job as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, was married to a great lady, had a wonderful one-year-old daughter, lived in a big house, believed the “right” things about God, stood on the “correct” side of the political spectrum, and so on. As society tells us to, and like many of us do, I found my identity, worth, value, and significance in my job, possessions, marriage, and beliefs.
(Not only do I think this pic of my daughter as a baby is adorable, I think kiddos remind us our True Self and identity lies beyond our doings, what we own, and such)
One of the first major tremors that shook this foundation of “me” came toward the beginning of the year when Amy and I had a miscarriage of our second child. Why would an all-powerful and loving God do this? As the beliefs I had then required me to think (though, I will note they were already shifting). The next, and biggest, earthquake was when during a long, multi-day conversation Amy told me things, as they were, weren’t working with us. The not fully tended to and/or unaddressed traumas, hurts, and losses of our individual stories had led me to unknowingly exacerbate her wounds. Divorce got put on the table, and in my beliefs at the time, aside from instances of adultery and abuse, divorce was an inappropriate dish.
While at the time we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, most of both our immediate families lived in Washington State, which meant we generally visited home in the summer and for Christmas. To make a long story short, after taking our usual summer vacation home, Amy, and our daughter Lara, stayed there with her parents to figure things out. Still disoriented by all this, when I got back to work my boss called me into his office to essentially let me know I’d been failing at a side-job I was tasked with doing, so needed to step things up and get my act together (Note: The job was Snack Duty Officer, or SNACO, meaning I kept the snack bar/fridge stocked. Also, I’m overstating how he put it some because that’s how I received it).
By this point, much of what I’d built my foundation of “self” on had been undone, which left me confused, ungrounded, and brokenhearted. While I had no plans to end my life, it’s no wonder I lacked the will to live and sometimes hoped an accident would put an end to my miserable existence. The problem was I’d misidentified my Self.
Another helpful category for thinking of this is idolatry (I bet you didn’t see that coming 🙂 One of my favorite names/terms for God is Source. I LOVE this moniker because our Creator made us to be connected. We’re made for connection with people, creation, and God. There’s a longing within us, a hunger for fulfillment, value, and belonging that can only truly satisfied by the Source of life, light, and love. When we try and satisfy this hunger with jobs, beliefs, marriages, homes, money, possessions, status, and so on, it’s idolatry because we’re trying to replace the Infinite and eternal with the finite and temporary, which inevitably leaves us confused, ungrounded, and empty as I was.
It’s hard to put words to how I felt at the time. I’d come to the end of myself. I was in despair. I lacked the will to live. I was empty. I was broken in the deepest sense of the word. I was disoriented. Sadness clung to me like my skin. Sorrow had penetrated to my bones.
There was/is no nonstop flight from broken to whole, despairing to blissful, idolatry to worship, or false self to True Self. Likewise, finding myself in Christ wasn’t the only brick in the rebuilding of me (MUCH could be said about the healing, restorative, life-giving power of my family and friends’ love). That said, Christ became my foundation and center, and it’s led to more peace, joy, and love than I can put words to … still, I’ll briefly describe what I mean by this as best as I can. 🙂
We see in John 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, 1 John, and other passages in the Bible thatChrist is the Blueprint for us all, the Creator of us all, the Author of Life, the Energy connecting us all, the Spirit residing in each of us, and the Love filling and flowing from us. The Christ became tangible, local, physical, touchable, and more real to us by becoming God incarnate as Jesus.
Not only did Jesus show us what it means to be fully and freely human, i.e. living as if we had nothing to prove and everything to share, He also displayed and named our worth. Jesus dying on the cross for us shows that every person ever is worth God dying for. In other words, we each have unsurpassable and unconditional worth … NO doing required. THAT, I believe is what defines my self and your self. It’s a gift from God.
My True Self, and I believe yours too, is found in Christ. It’s an unshakable, never-ending Source of peace, joy, and love, which forever fills our hunger for meaning, worth, belonging, and love. The Christ names us child, precious, and loved regardless of what we do or don’t do, own or don’t own, jobs, marriages, divorces, money, miscarriages, etc. … AHH, removing myself from the rat race and finding myself in the Love of Christ has been the sweetest salve to my soul, the most energizing meal ever, and the most amazing gift ever.
As I day-by-day continue shifting my identity, significance, and worth more and more from my job, thoughts, actions, possessions, etc. (what the world says defines us) to Christ, my fears flee, insecurities vanish, worries wane, and hunger is filled, because I’m relating to the Creator and tapping into the Source of peace, joy, and love. My soul is singing, face is smiling, and heart is full just by reflecting on this reality. Twelve years ago I “lost” myself, yet it was one of the best things ever, because Christ gave me not just the Real me back, but a WAY better me. What are your thoughts and experiences on this? May you receive as precious a gift as I have!
Grace and peace,