This is a word that my amazing fiancé, Lauren, preached to me the other day during a road trip. Once again, this post is going to take a little bit of vulnerability on my behalf, but I truly believe that this is a word that is relevant to so many people. So, I’ll be the sacrificial lamb again for this one.
What Lauren told me the other night went something like this, “I feel like you know where your identity is and that’s not a problem, but you’re torn because your sense of worth is in something totally different. Identity and worth are NOT the same thing.”
Wow! I know, right. Talk about conviction. I sat there speechless because I’d been feeling something for weeks at this point and couldn’t put my finger on it and then she just exposed it all in two profound sentences. In 30 seconds it all clicked and I started to make sense of it all as the revelation of what I was worth to God flooded my heart.
If you’re at a spot in life and you feel kind of like you’re free-falling a little bit, (I’m looking at you all of my college students who read this blog). If you’re not too sure about you’re direction or what the 5 year, 10 year, lifelong plan looks like? There’s a fair chance that you’re having a dilemma in this area of identity and/or worth and how they relate to each other.
Here’s the background. I’ve been in an interesting place lately. If you read my bio page (you can go check it out here), you already know a little bit of this story. But to make a long story short, I’ve always been a man with a plan. I started working for an oil company when I was in 10th grade in high school. While working for that company I found that I wanted to be a petroleum engineer. I went to college at the second best petroleum engineering school in the country *wink at Penn State. I landed an awesome job with an amazing company that I worked for all the way up through college. I was well on the way to corporate success in the industry that I had chosen and really, well on my way to what most people would call an amazing and successful life. Six figure salary out of the gate as a 23 year old, great career, great company, awesome people. Ample opportunity for growth, advancement, and travel; everything a young man just wetting his whistle in the real world could possibly want. Opportunities that men twice my age dream of were at my fingertips…Then God called me into ministry.
Talk about a course correction.
I was reluctant at first to give up what I had worked so hard to build in terms of my career but I was excited about the journey God was taking me on. So I took the plunge, and though I can definitively say without a doubt that I am right where God wants me, all of a sudden, I’m not a man with a plan anymore. I don’t know what this looks like 10, 15, 20 years down the road; and for the longest time, that terrified me.
So I was feeling a little unstable (and by “a little unstable” I mean that I felt like I had already fallen off the tight rope and was hanging on for dear life above the Grand Canyon) and Lauren said these words to me, “You need to man up and if you truly believe that God has called you into this then get some confidence in it.” It slapped me like a gorilla. I don’t know why I went with that simile but I feel like a gorilla could slap pretty hard so it makes sense. And here’s why it hit me so hard:
I made my decision to go into ministry because I am confident in who I am and what I’ve been called to in Jesus. However, I am not confident in how valuable other people see me being in ministry versus being a petroleum engineer. Let’s face it, a nice big office in Houston, proposing multi million dollar projects, having conference calls and vendor meetings, never having to pay for my own lunch, traveling all over the country or even world, you get the idea; it sounds way more impressive and glamorous than “campus missionary”. I know who I am, that’s why I chose to do ministry; I know my identity; but my worth was in something totally different. My worth was in how people view the significance of my vocation.
More simply, my worth was in what other people thought of me rather than what God thought of me.
My perception was that ministry isn’t as impressive as being a petroleum engineer. The result of that had been that I didn’t feel like people around me view me as being as important of a person because I’m doing ministry rather that pursuing a career in petroleum engineering. The truth is that some people probably don’t view me as being as successful or impressive or important as I was before I changed my vocational trajectory. But that just goes to illustrate my point that I put my worth in what people thought of me rather that putting it in the same place that I found my identity. The two should be the same, but we don’t always do that.
The result of having your identity and worth in two different bank accounts is that you end up divided in spirit. You know what you are and what you’re called to be so you spend your time and energy doing that thing. But because you derive worth from something other than what you’re called to do you never feel good enough. And you bounce around from thing to thing hoping to get just the right combination to feel fulfilled and worthy and grounded. It’s exhausting and it almost kept me at bay when God has so many amazing things in store out on the high seas. Being divided on identity and worth nearly robbed me of the greatness that God spoke into existence for me before the foundations of the earth.
Let God claim his identity over you as he did Jesus the day of his baptism in Matthew 3:17. The skies opened and God said, “This is my beloved son…” Boom! Identity! We are sons and daughters. Then comes the second part, the worth part “…with whom I am well pleased.” Wow! God is pleased in me? The God of the universe who is pleased with Jesus, who was pleased with Abraham, who was pleased with David, who was pleased with Edwards, who is pleased with Billy Graham is pleased with me as his child; that’s the company we keep. Jesus, David, Billy Graham they all did things that changed the world in a big way and we’re in that category right now. What more worth do we need?
The enemy always points to the size of the debt that has been charged. We’re called as Christians to make disciples of all the nations, that’s a big task. Satan says. “My, my. You have big shoes to fill. You see what Jesus did? How are you ever going to live up to that as a child of God. How are you ever going to be in ministry and change the world. You’re not Billy Graham. Everyone knows what Exxon Mobil is. Everyone knows what Chevron is. Billions of dollars a day flow through those companies. They’re the wealthiest on earth. When they do things, the world responds, they have all of the control, all the influence. How could you possibly be worth more doing ministry than doing that? Look at the power and respect…”
But then God comes in and with 5 words, destroys the entire argument of worthlessness. And those five words are, “I am pleased with you.”
Find your worth there. Much love guys, peace