I was that girl.
You know, the one who always had a boyfriend who was definitely "the one" until they proved, usually within days, that they were definitely NOT "the one." My poor youth pastor/surrogate dad who had to endure painful call after painful call of me so elated that I had found the one, and then the preceding call of me devastated to find out that, yet again, I was wrong. As a matter of fact when I had met Dave and was once again in the "he's the one" phase (but that time I really knew, really) I introduced Dave to Mark. Mark heard his name, yet with all the sarcasm he could muster he said, "Hi Doug." I quickly corrected him. Mark continued, "Dave, Doug - is it really going to matter in a week?" Needless to say I was angry and hurt at his bluntness and it took me quite a few years to admit that his comment was totally warranted. But regardless, I was her - the girl who had to have a boyfriend, because whether or not I wanted to admit it - I needed a boyfriend to define me. Despite all my accomplishments in ministry, my boldness, my love for the Lord, I felt as though I was lacking an identity unless I had a guy to define who I was.
Dave and I began dating and we started looking for a church to attend together. I was so excited to go to church with my boyfriend, like I had arrived or something. And then it was the meet and greet time, that I so generally despise during a church service. I stood there while men came and talked to Dave and no women came and talked to me. I saw quite a few walk by, glance down at my hand and with the absence of a ring they continued walking. We probably went to five or six churches where the women were just not welcoming to me and definitely were not inviting to me to be a part of their social group. I figured they should just wear signs on their backs, "MARRIED WOMEN NEED ONLY TO SPEAK TO ME." And then I realized, that being a girlfriend was not the sign of definition, it was being a wife. I needed to be a wife - and then I would be a whole person, one with much definition.
So after a couple of years, Dave and I got married. We were youth/children's pastors at a church. And the women there were sweet to me and I made great friendships but I then was made aware of another huge deficit that I had in regards to all the other women. I didn't have children. The youth kids moms would talk to me like I was still a little girl, the mom's of little kids in our church would talk to me like I had NO clue about their lives since I didn't have children (which I really didn't...but still) and I still felt left out. And then I realized that I must need kids to define me, to make me a complete person. So Dave and I started to try - and then we were told we couldn't. And each Sunday as I would check kids in for Sunday school and the moms would drop off their children so excited to get a break, my heart would break. The moms would tell me their war stories of what it took them to get to church that morning and how their kids were just driving them nuts. As my heart was breaking and my stomach twisting because of how badly I desired to be a mom, I would get angry at their ungrateful hearts. They had no idea what our struggle was - it wasn't their issue, but it did cement the fact in my mind that until I had children I was not a complete woman.
Three years and four children later, I am now a mom. And all those women that I so desperately wanted to be a part of their groups? I'm too busy. And yet I find myself, after all these years and with the addition of all these roles, still finding myself defining who I am in those roles. If someone was to ask me who I was, I think my honest answer would be, "I'm Melissa - Dave's wife, my kid's mom." I still, to be honest, find my definition in other people.
Now pause with me a bit. When Dave and I were going through the phase of finding a church and me feeling left out by all the married women, I told him that I would love to write a book one day for women being so cliquey and contrary to the Gospel because of it. Yet, in the last few years, God has opened my heart up to His truth a bit more - and the real issue at hand.
I have a friend who I adore. Her family became like family to Dave and me. She has twins too (her's are teens) and I just love her. Her husband Todd loved God and his family. Dave really admired the man Todd was and wanted to emulate him. Their names were synonymous with each other, really the sentence didn't feel complete unless you said "Mimi and Todd." But one night, when we lived in Kalispell, I got a phone call and I was told that Todd had died. I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. They must have heard wrong - but it was true. Todd died unexpectantly, and they were never able to figure out what caused his death. A few weeks later, we traveled back to Idaho for the memorial service where my friend stood and addressed the group. This woman, stood there as a beacon of strength - because although she lost part of her heart, she didn't lose who she was. Now more than ever, she was aware that her identity was found in the one who gives life and takes it away. Her definition was in God.
There was another couple I knew when I was pregnant with Lily. The wife was pregnant with her first baby and she was elated. Her definition was about to happen, she was going to be a mom. When Dave got sick and our whole world was focusing inward, we started getting phone calls from the husband. The day after Dave was diagnosed with MS, this couple lost their precious baby boy to SIDS. As quickly as she got her defining role, it was stripped away. And with no identity in who she really was apart from being a mother, her whole world crumbled around her.
I take for granted my roles and sometimes bellyache about them because I'm so tired much of the time. But I treasure my husband, and my children are such amazing blessings from the Lord. In paying attention to being a wife and a mom, quite honestly at times I forget to pay much attention to me. Now before I go on further, this is not going to turn into a post all about taking long baths and scheduling massage days to pamper ourselves. Although that would be fabulous, and a bit unattainable at the present place in my life, this is not the point. Sometimes I forget to pay attention to who I am as a child of God. Because if ever I had to stand where Mimi stood without notice or hold a baby who was no longer living - I must know that it doesn't change who I am to God.
Before I was a mom to my wonderful children, a wife to my amazing husband, an employee to an employer - even before I was a daughter to my mother - I was a child of God. That was my first role and it will be my last role. It has defined my life, even when I thought there was no definition. And I can get caught up in my responsibilities and forget my responsibility to myself, to my God. I need to pay attention, close attention to what God is calling me to do. I need to know what my Lord is requiring of me - not just in my capacity as wife and mom. And with as much zeal and excitement as I put into defining myself with becoming a wife and a mother I need to passionately pursue the constant definition that God offers.
So today, think on how you define yourself. Consider who you have allowed to determine who you are. Is your role as a child of God on the forefront of the list or is it an obligatory after thought? Jesus really does love you, He died for you - and in that, lies an eternity of purpose and definition.