Criticism, Critique, & Identity in Christ

 

My mind would not let me rest last night. From 1am to 3am, it spun. I couldn’t find the right position, I could burry my face deep enough into the blankets, to stop the internal noise. My mind replayed conversation after conversation from yesterday afternoon. Words stuck to me like my mom said oatmeal would stick to my ribs, and they rumbled around my all-too-alert mind.

The words were not hurtful words, they were not words that wound, nor were they full of spite. But they were criticisms hidden in encouragement, critiques coupled with compliments. I don’t know what it was about yesterday, but it seemed like every realm of life voiced its disappointment in me: the email from a seemingly irritated co-worker, the encouragement embedded with constructive criticism from my husband, the courteous challenge from a ministry team member. None of these people meant me ill, but their words lodged in my heart and threated to sicken it.

And as I tossed and turned in the wee hours of the morning, I played the conversations over and over in my mind like simultaneous records. The longer my sleeplessness persisted, the more frustrated I grew; not with the authors of the words, but with myself. It was clear to me that I had become a woman who defined herself by other’s opinions.

I didn’t used to be this way, I’m sure of it, I told myself as the clock rounded another hour. When I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t care less about what people thought about me. But in the light of day, I know the truth: it all started in middle school. I cared about the grade on my report card and about having the coolest sneakers in gym class; in high school I cared that I was thin enough to wear leggings and that I sat at the right table in the cafeteria; in college I insisted on having all the right accessories and one joke about my hair sent me to the stylist. And I guess much hasn’t changed by twenty-six.

It’s only 7:15, and I’m still groggy from a fitful night of sleep. The coffee hasn’t quite kicked in yet, and I should really be getting in the shower. But here’s the truth that I need for today: because Jesus has redeemed me, I can receive any critical word because my ultimate identity is found in being a daughter of Christ. The words of yesterday can all be true of me (and very well might be) and, by being true, do not diminish my value, my calling, or my inheritance. God did not save because of my merits, and He will not dismiss me due to my shortcomings. This means that I can consider the criticisms, I can receive a reproach because I know that I am securely held in the hand of God. His love for me will not change, His care for me will not falter, and my identity in Christ will not be shaken. He will always be in my corner, He will always be for me and not against me.

And in this truth I will walk today. I will set alerts to remind me, I will post it on my desk, I will keep this truth as close to my heart as possible. I will step out the front door in confidence and assurance that He is pleased with me because of His Son, and not because of my own capabilities (or lack thereof). And, in this truth, I will return to this bed tonight in peace. I will shut my eyes in rest, because of His great love for me.

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