From the Ashes of Identity: A Journey to Wholeness in God

In every human life, the crucible of suffering can be transformative. The past year, dominated by COVID-19, has forced us all to confront change, loss, and disarray head-on, shattering routines and drastically changing how we live both privately and professionally. For many, a profound identity crisis looms as they grapple with self-definitions once tethered to professional roles, modes of transportation, office environments, and more. We’ve felt the rug yanked from beneath our feet.

Yet, paradoxically, it’s in such upheaval that we can be jolted awake to a life of greater abundance. I’ve experienced such an awakening, a tumultuous event that turned my world upside down and made me question who I was. My life-altering encounter wasn’t a virus but a mental health crisis.

Diagnosed with major depression, it felt as if my life, previously standing on toothpicks, was crumbling around me. Stripped of my pastor’s role and unable to engage with my family or the life I’d constructed, I was left adrift. I had built an identity based on doing and achieving, but depression cast a dark shadow that left me without a sense of self.

However, from the wreckage of my mental health crisis – “the crash,” as I now call it – I unearthed a new sense of identity, rooted in receiving God’s love without having to earn it. It’s opened up a way for me to love myself, to love others more freely, and to experience the joy of being authentically me. No more masks. No more pretending. I’ve learned to embrace my unique personality and abilities, utilizing them not for validation but for the pure joy of it.

In this journey of self-discovery, I’ve learned to celebrate my uniqueness, which in turn has propelled me to take risks, grow, and transform in wonderful ways. I’m no longer shackled by the need for approval; instead, I’ve regained my power, establishing myself as the queen of my own realm. It felt like taking my first real breath. I was learning to just be me.

The “crash” helped me understand that true identity is anchored in our relationship with God. Just as John the Apostle described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), I’ve realized that God’s overwhelming grace can shape our identities too.

God’s love isn’t earned – it’s a divine grace. We’re treasured and precious to God, not because we’ve proven our worth a million times, but because we are loved by Him. It’s this staggering truth that nourishes self-esteem, showing us that we’re worthy because we’re loved. This doesn’t mean we just sit back, though. God’s grace energizes us to express gratitude and take bold action, freeing us from the chains of others’ expectations and empowering us to act out of our deep, abundant well of being.

The journey to self-discovery is like mining for hidden treasure. My identity, previously built on accomplishments, roles, and a to-do list, was reduced to rubble in the crash. In the darkness, I discovered a deep, loving union with God and a newfound self-awareness. It felt as though all my prized possessions had turned to ash, revealing them for what they were: meaningless. Strangely, this realization brought relief and gratitude. It opened up space for new possibilities and a simpler, refreshing life. Every day brings new revelations of my true self – a self unveiled through the refining process of my crash.

The parable of the man who sells everything to buy a field hiding a treasure (Matthew 13) resonates with me deeply. The treasure I’ve discovered within myself makes my old identity seem like fool’s gold. I’m growing in my awareness of my being, the all-affirming presence of God in me. Attachments fall away, and I feel no compulsion to justify or validate my existence. I simply am because God is.

This journey has taught me that amidst the ashes of a dismantled identity, a rebirth awaits. I’ve learned that I am not defined by what I do or accomplish, but by God’s love. It’s a divine love that’s at the center of our true selves, a transformative power that enables us to embrace our wholeness in God.