If you were to ask me how I would describe myself, one of the first things out of my mouth would be “hard-working.” All my life, I have relied on this aspect of my character, if it can be called that, as the one thing that could differentiate me from others with similar skill levels. It is this that could allow me to climb the ladder of success. I have never thought I am smarter or more savvy than anyone else. What I have come to believe, though, is that I can achieve simply by outworking everyone else. This is true at work, in ministry, in love, in everything. It is a source of pride. I work hard and no matter how far I’m pushed, I can always find more energy. I will not be outworked!
Not all of this has been part of my consciousness, but rather, has been the way I have moved through life. It has a long history in my psyche because growing up, I was led to believe that I was not as smart, not as talented, not as good. Second-rate, really. And I believed this. Believe this. So, I allow the thing that is within my control -- my ability to muscle through with effort -- to define me.
What happens then, when someone says of me: “She is not a hard worker”? Gutted. Cleaned out. Emptied. The one thing I know to be true about me, the one thing that sets me apart, the one thing that has always been reliable and controllable, the one thing that defines me, gone with the breath of another. Now, I know that what someone says about me is not necessarily true and I know that how other people perceive me is not definitive of who I am. I know these things in my head. Tell this to the deepest part of my heart, though. It does not believe you. Tell me a thousand times that my worth does not depend on what someone else says or how I am perceived. I will hear you, I will understand what you are saying, I will want to believe you. But, I will not. Not ever.
It is here, in this place of utter emptiness, that I meet God, or, should I say, that God meets me. He is there telling me, through His Spirit, “I am here;” “You can rely on me;” “I am faithful;” “I will not leave you;” “The one thing that defines you is Jesus Christ.” This indwelling of Christ in my emptied-out heart has power behind it. The power of the One who created all, the power of the One who raised the dead. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an overnight transformation, and I have my doubts at times. To allow Christ to redefine me requires surrender and trust. It requires letting go of a piece of me that I have believed is central to who I am. Not easy. Painful, actually, because I think, "well, if I am not this, than what am I really?" Parts of me want to do something a little (seemingly) simpler – disbelieve the sentiment that I am not a hard-worker and go back to relying on the fact that I am.
How unreliable faith in this perception or self-definition is, though. How much more reliable is faith in the living Christ: the One in whom I have the assurance that I can do all things not because I am a hard worker, but because He gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13) The shell that I am without my self-definitions is filled with living water. (John 7:38)
What is your one thing?