The best way to describe the last three years for me would be to call them a barrel ride down a long river—always uncomfortable, frightening at times, but not without occasional calm and continual overwhelming beauty.

My journey started when my first husband died, and within 36 months I went from the image of the American dream to a widow and single mom of two preschoolers to second wife and stepmom. But my title wasn’t the only thing that suffered an identity crisis—my soul did, too.

With each new title I’ve had to ask the question, “Who am I now?” The man I worked so hard to become “one” with died and took half of me with him—the part of me that carried the innocent fresh face that had known no real tragedy. He was my first love and one that ran through a very deep vein that beat continuously to my heart. I often wondered at the time what parts of me would survive? The future was so blurry and mysterious.

As the only parent of two very small children, I had to play the role of both father and mother—disciplinarian and comforter, provider and nurturer, sender and keeper. I couldn’t settle into my natural role, even though I fiercely wanted to. In addition to my crisis of identity, I was the most imperfect single mom I’ve ever known. I was continually grieved by my inability to fill the gap of masculine and feminine in my children’s lives. God never intended it to be that way. He made parenting a two-person job for a reason. Moment by moment situations required a microwave evaluation of who I should be to each child in that instant.

As a second wife and stepmom the questions and insecurities can run in all different directions, including exaggerated imaginations. Everything I knew from my previous marriage proved, in a relationship sense, to be worthless. I married a new man with a different personality and his are new children in different stages of life from my own, which meant that I had to start all over learning about marriage and family life. All the wisdom and knowledge and experience I gained in my previous life is as useful as learning Spanish and moving to Germany. The old rules of communication, interaction, and tradition are all different now. There is no such thing as “this is the way I did it before.” That’s all gone, and why shouldn’t it be? He’s a different man. And I’m a different woman.

With each of these fluctuations in my life, I’ve tried to adapt. It was undeniable that the person I was had changed, even despite my attempts to be the “same old me,” but I wasn’t sure if I liked this new person. I saw parts of myself emerge that I wish weren’t there—ugly, spastic, insecure Mr. Hydes that would sometimes come out of nowhere. Yet there was an eye-opening process of humiliation and deepening dependence on God, as if He finally convinced my stubborn self-sufficient heart that I really do need a Savior, and I need Him desperately.

I thought a new stable life would help me feel “normal” again. But as with all good marriages, the first year has been filled with molding and shaping. You’d think I would be used to it by now, but no. As a people-pleaser by nature, I kept evaluating, What pleases my spouse? What pleases the children? What pleases me? There was no way to be all things to all people, especially in such a complicated situation, and I felt like I was failing everyone all the time. Yet I was who I was—failures, broken past, differences of thinking, expectations. I had nothing more to offer.

In my soul, I cried out, “Oh God, I’m lost! Come and find me!” Like a bleating sheep who had wandered off, I plead for the Shepherd to come for me, and I knew He would. He promised in Matthew 18:12, “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?”

Then one Sunday morning, my rescue came in the form of the worship song “The Stand” by Hillsong. “What can I say? What can I do?” I sang, “But offer this heart, oh God, completely to you.” The Shepherd was calling, reminding me that I didn’t have to find who I was. It didn’t matter who I was. What matters is who He is living in me.

Discovering myself was the wrong motivation. I needed to empty myself and simply receive all that Christ pours out. Through the mercy and the penetrating blood of Jesus, I don’t have to work for anyone’s favor because I already have the favor of God! All I have to do is live in His grace, feasting on His word and drinking in His mercy. When I stop trying to find satisfaction in earthly relationships, and receive from God this way, He fills my cup to overflowing, and it spills over and pours out covering my marriage, my children, and all other relationships in the pyramid of my life.

So, who am I? Well, I’m a jumbled up mess of a person who is still figuring out how this new life of mine works. Instead, let me tell you who I am in Christ:

I am free.
“And who the Son sets free, he is free indeed” (John 8:36).

I am free from worry, burdens, guilt, free from the shackles of sin and the death that my sins deserve. But I’m not just free from, I am also free to. I’m free to be lighthearted, hope-filled, and encouraged. And I am free to represent the Lord, despite (and even because of) my imperfections.

I am forgiven.
“’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’” (Isaiah 1:18).

I no longer have to carry guilt for my sin or fear God’s wrath. Even when men and women hold a grudge against me, my record before God stands clear.

I am an overcomer.
“… We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

No matter what battles I may face, God has given me the power to conquer them and come out on the other side with riches far better than anything of earthly value. The treasures God offers never rust or fade, and they never go out of style or lose their luster—love, joy, peace, wisdom, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.

I am created for a purpose.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

God created me specifically for a task, not just to sit around complaining about my sorrows and woes. And He planned my role in His kingdom before I was born! I’m not just another nameless face in the masses. No, He fashioned a custom-made plan for my life, including work that matters to the kingdom. Even despite my shortcomings and fears, God uses me.

I am a work in progress.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Very few verses have comforted me like this one has in the last three years. I painted it on a canvas and it hangs in my kitchen to remind me when I get discouraged that there is still more miracles to come. In the quest for finding who I am now, I somehow forgot that the answer to that question is an ever-changing one.

God is not finished defining who I am. Like a child who asks, “Are we there yet?” at every new mile, it’s futile to try to rush the journey. I’m not going to fully know who God created me to be until I get to the end. That’s what John so beautifully expresses in his letter, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

So my job is easy. All I really have to do is obey the word of the Lord from a heart of love and watch Him bring about the fruit of that labor, keeping my eyes not on myself, but on Him.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Sabrina McDonald