Who am I? That’s a good question, something I’ve been pondering myself today and one of the reasons I started this blog. Not that I’m going through an identity crisis, but today I began searching for answers to the question, What does God say about me? Who does he say I am?
I wasn’t actually searching for these verses for me, but for my nine-year-old daughter. I wanted verses to help her build her confidence—not just in herself, but in who she is in God. So I suppose those are things one, two, and three to know about me: One, I’m a mother, a forty-something mother of two; I also have a six-year-old son. Two, I’m a wife; I went the traditional route and have a husband, my one and only, who is also my children’s father. Three—and most importantly—I’m a born-again Christian, a follower (disciple) of Christ.
What I found in my Bible verse search today ended up being for me rather than for my daughter, and it changed the entire course of my day. It prompted me to start a blog, the first one I’ve written in about ten years. I wasn’t intending to blog; if you would have asked me, I would have said I don’t have the time. But that would have been an excuse not to do what I now feel compelled to do. That brings me to things four and five: Four, I teach. I’m a full-time lecturer at a local university, and I’ve been blessed to be at an institution and in a program that provides good benefits and salary to non-tenure track, teaching lecturers like me. I teach writing in a non-major program, which is time-consuming during the school year. Five, I’m a writer who hasn’t taken the time to write in years—but who has also felt compelled to use my writing as a type of ministry, a longing that has been growing stronger and stronger in the last few years.
This longing has had me pondering questions of faithfulness—my own, and those of the people I have been blessed to share life with; of faithlessness—my failures in living out my faith, particularly in my relationships with others (my daughter included, this the beginning of this post and this search); and of God’s grace—the way he covers me in my faithlessness and teaches me more about himself and myself every day. So six, I’m a sinner. I need a savior (hence, number three). As you read this blog, keep in mind that I’m not perfect. But seven, God has blessed me beyond measure with the people he has put into my life, all my life—people of faith, who taught me and teach me what it is to be a person of faith. It is for and because of those people that I want to use what gifts God has given me to pass on a part of the faith: I want to encourage and build up other Christ-followers (I Thess. 5:11), so here I am writing (back to number five here).
I said that what I found in my Bible verse search today ended up being for me, but in a way it might be for you, too. Jeremiah 31:2-3 (ESV) says,
Thus says the LORD:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
In the original context, this is a prophecy spoken to Jeremiah that (in my understanding) is not yet fulfilled. But God has a way of using his words to teach us and bring comfort to us in many contexts, and this is one of those passages. Just think about what it says, about what it says to you and to me. The most famous verse here is the third, but God spoke to my heart this morning through the verse prior to it just as much:
The people who survived the sword: We all know many people who have been through trials. Through tough, excruciating times. We also know survivors. I can honestly say I am a survivor of “the sword,” of a tough time that I would call my “wilderness.” But it was only by the grace of God that I survived. And that is why the next line resonates with me, even to the point of being exciting: Survivors—God’s people—found grace in the wilderness. The LORD is speaking here, reminding his people—reminding me—that it was in the wilderness that grace is found. His riches, his unmerited love, his process of making me who I’m meant to be takes place, at least in part, in the wilderness.
And then the LORD reminds us of rest. Not only is the next part a reminder for me of the need for rest, but a reminder that he is my rest: he says that when Israel [Jacob] sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him…. Israel sought rest, and the LORD appeared. So often I try and try and try to rely on my own strength, my own abilities, my own ideals, on myself. But God has been teaching me and reminding me that he is strong, and I am weak; he is able, and I am incapable; he is perfect, and I am imperfect; he is the I AM, and I am his creation, made through him and for him (Col. 1:16). And because of this, he is my rest; I can rest in him.
Finally, he knows I am imperfect, knows that more often than not I am faithless—I fail at being faithful—and still sends the message that I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. I have loved you, Rhonda. I continue to love you, my love is everlasting, I am faithful; you can count on and rest in this knowledge. And he made the ultimate demonstration of this in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).
So who am I? A forty-something mom, wife, and Jesus-follower; a writing teacher and a writer compelled to use her gift for God; a sinner, saved by grace and blessed abundantly by the faithful people God has put into my life who wants to give back to those people and others through words of encouragement. I hope and pray in some small part these words will encourage you.