Fashioned for Dependence: Losing Myself




Proximity to family and friends.


Those things I knew I would lose when we made the decision to move overseas. One thing I didn’t expect to lose?

My identity

It’s my own fault. Growing up in our productivity-driven western culture, for most of my life my identity had been seamlessly woven into what I could do.  Talents. Abilities. Gifts. Strengths. Those are things we like to take online tests to determine and then examine, evaluate, and celebrate. We put what we can do on a pedestal and we champion other people doing great things (especially if they can take pretty pictures of themselves doing them) and quietly question those who we assess aren’t doing much. We invest in calendars and planners and life coaches and dream journals and we post our productivity on social media for all to see. Our outward persona and measurable accomplishments become indistinguishably linked to who we think we are at the core: our identity.

So what happens when an American girl that thrives on productivity moves to the other side of the globe where she can’t fully communicate, doesn’t understand all the aspects of the culture, isn’t sure how things are done or life is lived because it is all upside down and backwards to her upbringing?

She loses herself.

And there, in the sea of culture shock and grief and struggle to find her footing, she doesn’t even recognize who she is anymore, because who is she if she’s not what she can do? Is her value lessened when her hands are empty? And if she can’t do what she’s always done, if her identity was lost somewhere in transit over the Pacific Ocean, must she live in this identity-less state forever wondering who she is?  

Or could it be that in losing herself, she actually finds a truer version of who she was made to be?

I didn’t know when my feet left American soil to plant themselves on the dusty village streets of SE Asia that I was leaving behind the only me I had ever known.  The task-oriented, go-getter, big-dreamer, tell-me-what-to-do-and-I’ll-get-it-done girl I’d always been got left at the Starbucks counter in terminal E of the Houston airport. I didn’t know I was exchanging my experience in teaching and business and ministry for a re-birth; a stripping-down of myself and a becoming-new like a baby in an unfamiliar world who needs people to feed her and take her places and tell her what to do and how to do it, but that’s what happened. All of a sudden, my capable became incompetent. My knowledge became foolishness. My achievements became meaningless. And so, I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered, if I am not all these things, who am I?  

Isn’t there a dying necessary to bring new life? Isn’t the grief over the loss of who we thought we were really a celebration of the birth of who we were truly meant to be?  And if we’ve never stood at the funeral of our own “self” can we say we’re really living the abundant life Christ came to give?

I realized that for much of my life, I had looked at dependency as a weakness. What I actually found is that dependency on Christ is freedom: freedom from striving, from achieving, from doing, from fashioning our own sense of worth from the work of our hands and finding it in Christ alone.

Dependency on Christ is freedom: freedom from striving, from achieving, from doing, from fashioning our own sense of worth from the work of our hands and finding it in Christ alone.

When I finally dried my tears at the graveside of my old identity and came face to face with who I was meant to be all along, it took my breath away:

I am small.

I am loved.

I am chosen.

I am needy.

I am valued.

I am humble.

I am seen.

I am flawed.

I am growing.

I am weak.

I am strong.

I am His.

Odds are, you will not be moving to the other side of the world and having a cross-cultural identity crisis like I did. But I have a suspicion that you have experienced your own moments of feeling like you’re falling short, like the things you thought you could accomplish that gave a sense of purpose and meaning to your life are just out of reach. We all have times of questioning who we are, why we’re here, if we matter. And I believe the Lord allows us to wrestle with these things because ultimately, we have to realize that the identity we so crave that the world tells us is found when we take control of our life is actually realized when we release control and recognize our dependency on Christ.

Oh, this new identity doesn’t come easy. We have to fight for it. As a baby fights to leave the safety of her mother’s womb, as a butterfly fights to escape the cocoon, I had to fight and struggle and push my way past the confines of who I had been told I was and believed I was. And in this new identity I have found, in the losing of who I thought I was and the re-birth into the truth of who I am, I have realized that until you lose your life, you can’t really be living it. We find our true life when we release control and embrace dependency on Christ.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25

We find our true life when we release control and embrace dependency on Christ.

I expected a lot of things when we said yes to life overseas. I expected the struggle of culture shock and change. I expected homesickness and grief. I didn’t expect that I would find a whole new identity that isn’t based on what I can do but based on the freedom that comes with dependency on Christ. And you know what? Doing less and just being in this new identity? It’s more fulfilling than my most productive day in my former life. The striving has been replaced with surrender, the running with rest.

I may not have known when I surrendered to this life that I was giving up my identity with it, but standing on the other side now, I’m glad that the old me stayed behind in America with all her tasks and achievements and productivity so I could find myself here, in the unexpected, holy space called 


“Therefore if anyone is in the Son, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

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