My faith in God is a huge part of my identity. I’ve got a God-shaped hole in my heart, and I’m (almost) complete when I make God number one in my life.
My recent experience with heartbreak has demonstrated this to me.
In my first year of university I moved cities and had to do long distance with my highschool boyfriend. He was always there for me when I had fights with my friends or there were problems in my family. He loved me when I didn’t love myself. He was my confidante and I was his. But as time went on he gradually became distant, and eventually he dumped me over Facebook.
Man I was such a wreck. It took me years to get over… to the point where I still have to control my feelings today. But I know that those feelings come from a vulnerable place… I would even go so far as to say it comes from a dangerous place.
Now when my recent relationship ended (my first and only relationship in my 20s), I felt a sadness that affected me on a visceral level. I was in bed for five days, crying inconsolably… I even thought about overdosing… your mind can wander to dark corners that you never knew existed when you’re sad. But after these five days I was fine and I had perspective because I had previously been strong in my faith.
It surprised me so much that as a 20 something who had learnt a lot from her previous relationship and was now ready to marry this man, that I could feel so OK and have amazing perspective, trust and faith in God just five days after having my heart broken! Surely, something like this should be WORSE than my first heart break?
And that’s when I realised… Although it was painful at first… a normal grief reaction… it wasn’t the end of the world for me because my identity didn’t rest in our relationship. The God-shaped hole in my heart wasn’t filled by this man… it was filled by God. And my broken heart could be easily restored by God Himself.
My first heartbreak has left dangerous emotions dormant because my identity rested in that relationship. He validated me, his love and affection gave me a sense of worth. So when it was over, I felt worthless and broken and lost. Even though I loved him, it was unhealthy. It was a type of dependency and idolatry. It was a selfish kind of love, where I sought to get his affection and approval. I was easily jealous (and still am) if I thought his eye was wandering. And he would often lose his patience with me and assume the worst.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Whenever I have romantic feelings, I make sure to check it against God’s definition of love. Equally, I also assess how a man behaves towards me and see if it is in line with what the Bible says. Clearly, none of my relationships have involved two parties whose love aligns with God’s definition of love (although it can never really truly be that way as no one is perfect, but it can be close!). And that makes sense to me! That’s why they didn’t work out. (I think it’s a good definition of love even if you aren’t Christian)
If I could go back in time, I would tell my 18 year old self to find my identity in something whole… like God… instead of something broken… like a human being.
The fact is, we are all pretty broken so we need to have a strong sense of identity in order to complement someone else in a relationship. For me, I’m made whole by God. He gives me strength to persevere through the valleys of life.
What shapes your identity?