(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Finding Identity Through Faith and Feelings
By Jehn Kubiak
One of the scariest feelings in the world is waking up one day and realizing that you don’t really “know who you are anymore.” Wondering, “Who am I, really?” is definitely something that I dealt with over the past couple of months, and I imagine others have as well.
Throughout the plethora of pandemonium the world has endured the past few months, each individual has experienced pain. Some of those experiences may relate to oneself––loss of work, routine, family, and more. These personal losses we experience can often lead to a greater loss; identity in Christ. But why?
After dealing with my own experience of identity loss, and hearing others’ as well, two overarching themes have emerged: feelings and fear. These may seem tangential, but they’re often what push people to this “breaking point” of questioning who they really are.
Over the past couple of months, I struggled with somatic flashbacks that resulted from a previous job experience that occurred during the summertime. Although it’s been a couple years, my mind and body have still held onto that pain, which hit much harder this year than last (most likely due to all the chaos and loss of “normal” in the current state of the world).
Anyways, I’m one of the 15-20 percent of people in the world who are considered “Highly Sensitive Persons” (HSP’s). We’re often known as the people who “cry at the drop of a hat” because we feel pretty much everything very intensely. Because of this, we also often experience health issues due to an internalization of these intense feelings.
This is what happens during my PTSD flashbacks; my body feels that same adrenaline and fear that I experienced during the original situation, and it’s hard to separate my past memories from my present experiences––much less push those feelings away. Since these feelings were so overwhelming, and I was experiencing burnout from teaching too many swim lessons, I experienced quite a few health issues over the summer: insomnia, stomach cramps, migraines, nausea, vertigo, and confusion.
As you can imagine, I felt anything but normal as I navigated these health issues. Eventually, I gave into fear, constantly worrying if I would bounce back from these health issues or feel like myself anytime soon. That day did come, thankfully, but not until the second week of August, after I processed what was really going on with me internally.
With all these struggles, I definitely experienced some identity loss. Although I grew up in the church, that identity in Christ was not how I would’ve defined myself these past couple of months. It’s not that I didn’t know I was a Daughter of Christ; rather, it was hard to recall that identity through all the pain. Instead, I applied other labels to myself, which came directly from the fear and feelings I experienced: ditz, failure, reject, irresponsible, oblivious…
Eventually, I discovered that I often ruminate over these feelings of failure and fears of inadequacy, which prevented me from spending time with the Lord in prayer and devotion. It was in this time of solitude where the Lord really reminded me that I am His, and I am precious in His sight.
Out of all my devotional readings lately, Psalm 116 has spoken to me the most. One of my former professors told us that the Psalms were always the place to go during emotional exhaustion and constant stress, so that’s why I picked that portion of Scripture. Anyways, I started at Psalm 91 (one of my favorites in the entire book), and worked my way forward. Once I came to 116, God gave me an important reminder:
“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you,” – Psalm 116:7
Not only is this a great reminder about the importance of slowing down, but these words evoke a sense of belonging:
I am His.
I am loved.
I am forgiven.
I am renewed.
I am valuable.
Remember this when fear and feelings run awry. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for those––feelings and fears can often push us to a place of growth––but the problem is when they lead to negative labels instead of positive affirmations of our identity in Christ. If standing firm in your identity is tough, I encourage you to write statements of Identity in your journal, much like the ones I wrote above, or find a printable poster to hang on the wall.