Identity. It is something that you think you understand about yourself, until you get put into a whole lot of newness, and then you realize that you don’t. Coming out to Salt Lake City was a decision that I was sure about. I had always known that I wanted to take a gap year while applying to, and before attending, medical school. I was excited for the change in the pace of life, for the mountains and new adventures, and for the challenges and blessings that come along with a new community. But, I wasn’t prepared for the way the Lord was going to refine me, and so soon.
For as long as I can remember, school, and my achievements in school, have been a priority and gave me a sense of identity, importance, and purpose. I wore this identity like a mask, relying on the attributes and perceptions about me that it formed. As I have entered into this new community of people, I realized how many other masks I have put on in the past in order to try to feel approval or acceptance.
I was sitting at the top of a mountain this past weekend, looking over Lake Blanche, after a long and strenuous hike, when I realized how exhausted I was. I was not only physically exhausted, but I was emotionally exhausted as well. I was tired of trying so hard. I was tired of being so worried about what others thought of me and wasting my time trying to decipher if others think I am “enough”. It took the process of moving to a new place, being in a new stage of life, and being in a new community to realize that the old masks I used to hide behind weren’t relevant anymore, and that these people don’t see me for the identity that I have worn so proudly, for so long. Who am I if I am not seen as the [blank] person? We could all fill in that blank with attributes that we rely on such as “smart”, “funny”, “athletic”, “tough”, “dedicated”, etc.
Right there, in that moment, overlooking that beautiful lake and feeling utterly exhausted, I gave up and fully surrendered to the Creator. I gave up on trying to find my identity in anything other than the One who made me. I gave up on trying to be someone I thought others wanted me to be. I gave up on trying to so desperately fill in that blank with anything but “fully loved by the Creator”. The Lord just told me to stop and to let His acceptance of me be enough.
My ultimate goal is to show the love of Jesus through a future career as a physician. I want to treat my future patients with a compassion, empathy, and whole-person care that exuberates a life that is lived for a meaning that is more than just about myself. The Lord has been faithful throughout the process it takes to apply to medical school and I am expectant that He is and always will be faithful. I am not aspiring to go to medical school to be accepted by, or to impress, others. I am pursuing this career, and have worked so hard for it, because I am passionate about it and feel that it is the Lord’s calling on my life.
On top of that mountain, I gave up. I didn’t give up on my passion or goal, but I gave up on every identity that I have tried to find fulfillment in, or purpose from, other than Jesus Christ. I was tired and exhausted. I was ready to allow the Lord, and His acceptance of me, to define and shape my identity. This is not to say that I have finally “found the gold” and “have it all figured out”. Not at all. Slowly but surely the Lord is teaching me what His unearned grace and love with no conditions truly means. I am learning what it looks like to fully place my identity in THAT truth.
I am not only learning how to let Jesus love me well, but how to let this amazing new community love me well too. In order to allow someone to love you well, you have to admit fault, imperfection, and weakness, and then you have to bring that into the light. That process takes a lot of trust, and it can be hard. Two of the Fellows shared their life stories this past Monday, and I was so grateful. I was grateful for their vulnerability, honesty, and humility in sharing, and I am grateful for the deep level of intentionality that they set for this community going forward. I am learning that real community can be messy and challenging, but in order for it to be “real”, YOU have to be 100% “real” and bring that 1%, that you kept in the darkness for so long, to the light. We all have masks that we hide behind because we are so terrified of what people will think if “they knew the real me.” But, the crazy thing is, when you get to know someone’s “real me”, you see their humanness, imperfections, weaknesses, and amidst those, you see Jesus shining through the cracks.
One of my favorite things about Utah are the mountains. I have such a deep appreciation and fascination for the mountains because they make me feel small. They remind me of how big and how in control my Creator is, and how small, insignificant, and not in control I am. They remind me that my problems or worries are not the be-all-end-all and it blows me away that I am so dearly loved and cherished by the One who created those massive, beautiful, and majestic mountains. For the past month here in Salt Lake City, I have been trying to live in a state of adventurous expectancy, seeking after the Lord and the identity He gives me, and soaking up this amazing community where I have been placed.
Wherever you are, or whatever stage of life you are in when reading this, I would encourage you to take off the mask, let others see your 1%, and let the Creator’s utter love and obsession with you define you and your identity. Live in adventurous expectancy, with a humble boldness that can only be attributed to the One who made you!
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative