We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer the world. (Lord knows I’ve struggled, which is why I wrote this book). About the time we find a scrap of worth or significance, something happens to make us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A rejection. A blunder or failure. (It happened to me this week.) Then, in spite of our best efforts at positive self-talk or affirmation, we can’t escape the insecurity and aloneness we experience as a result. When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, my friend Michele Cushatt understands the struggle first hand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books, but as the picture indicates, part of the story involves a very long battle with cancer), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also knows what it’s like to cry out to God for grace, and to discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now.
I am not failure
The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. —Revelation 3:12
Call me antiquated or old school, I don’t care. Adopting my husband’s last name might’ve been my favorite part of getting married.
Engaged at twenty years old, I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing my new last name, both written and verbal. I doodled it in notebooks and walked through my parents’ house saying it out loud. I imagined writing checks with my new name, answering to my new name, sending letters with my new name. I even printed special return-address labels, excited as I was about my new marriage.
I never dreamed my new name wouldn’t last.
And when my husband left after six years of marriage, I had to wear a name I never wanted to claim:
For more than a decade, this name plagued me. Embarrassed, I did everything I could to hide the truth from those I met. At church, parties, and community gatherings, I pretended I was a normal twentysomething, unmarred by a broken marriage. Inevitably, the subject of family came up. They asked their questions in innocence, simply making conversation. They didn’t realize the gaping wound each question opened in me:
“Are you married? How many children do you have? Where’s your husband?”
I’m pretty sure my face flushed with each inquiry. Unable to avoid the truth, I hung my head and delivered an honest reply, trying to swallow my shame as I bounced my two-year-old on my hip.
“No, I’m not married. I’m divorced.”
Awkward silence always followed my admission. Nobody knows what to say to a young, divorced mother. I interpreted their silence as judgment, insecure as I was. Perhaps my assumption was accurate, perhaps not. But it didn’t matter.
I judged myself.
The label followed me well into my second marriage, when school-teachers noticed one of my children had a different last name than the others. And at sporting events, when former spouses showed up, creating a complicated family drama. Not to mention countless awkward explanations to old friends who hadn’t yet heard of my first marriage’s demise.
Divorced. Divorced. Divorced.
I imagined the words being whispered behind my back as friends and family struggled to make sense of this unexpected turn of events. I’d failed at the one thing I needed to get right—marriage and family. And no matter how much I loved my new husband and children, we’d never be able to recreate the traditional family we’d lost.
As time passed, the name grew unbearably heavy, stifling. Until I finally realized I didn’t have to wear a label of shame anymore.
“You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isa. 62:2–3).
Divorce was part of my story. But it couldn’t dictate the future of my family unless I let it. Divorce is a dot on the timeline of my life, a dot that has impacted multiple other dots, no doubt about it. But a dot just the same.
I am not divorce. I am not failure. I’m a reflection of the life and presence of Christ.
I carry His name, I wear His covering, I walk in His grace and mercy and forgiveness. My name has been established by the God who claims me as His own.
A day is coming, promises the book of Revelation, when our knight on a white horse will ride in to exact both judgment and mercy upon this earth. When that day comes, He will bestow on you and me a new name, His name. All the other names and labels we’ve lugged around for a lifetime will be swallowed up by a bigger and better one.
No more shame. No more need to hide. No more labels we can’t shed.
Instead of broken, rebuilt.
Instead of lost, found.
Instead of unwanted, chosen.
Instead of unmarried, married to the Most High.
The weight of every lesser name we’ve carried will be lifted from our shoulders, even as the one who calls us His own places a crown on our heads. As a groom calls his bride to his side, He will call us to Himself. No more shame, no more embarrassed admissions. Instead, chosen. Wanted. And renamed by our one true love.
These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds. Michele and her husband, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long walk, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele @ michelecushatt.com.
Win this Book & the Accompanying I AM cards (so cool!)
To be entered, please comment on this post. What have you had to overcome? What beliefs about who you are have had to change? A winner will be randomly drawn next week.
Michele, waves of refreshing truth washed over me while reading your words. Thank you. And this, after I just got to see you speak at the WCCW writing conference this weekend, further encouraged my heart. Thank you for sharing your imperfect life as you look to Jesus. Hearing you speak or reading what you write fills up my reservoirs.
I’m so glad to hear it, Deb. Be encouraged!
Thank you for this. It touched me because a family member I love greatly is dealing with the pain of divorce herself right now and it is excruciating for her and for all of us. I daily have to work on overcoming pain the loss of a relationship with one of my children due to their own choice. That too, is excruciating.
I’m so sorry, Megan. Such a helpless feeling. With you.
This was a breath of fresh air for me today.
I needed the encouragement after the loss of my mom and brother. Her service was a week ago, and my brother’s service, just 3 months ago.
Keeping my focus on Jesus daily (and sometimes hourly) has been my salvation.
He is good, He is with us in the middle of our trials, He will finish what He started in us, and He will never fail us.
Thank you for confirming what a great God we have!
Susan, you are the winner of Michele’s book. Please email me at mary @ marydemuth dot com. Hooray!
Ah, congrats on the win, Susan! xoxox
I have had to overcome mistrust of others that defiantly wasn’t part of God’s wonderful plan for my life. My upbringing didn’t foster emotional safety or validation of feelings. I even felt at times that I had no right to exist. Jesus changed all that. Over time I started to trust Him and his Word. I’m confident that when I ask the Lord for what I need He cares and responds with love and provision. He made me and has made a place for me in this life as He has done for all other people. Each person is created and love unconditionally by the Lord who wants to be their father.
I used to believe that I was inherently undeserving and without a supportive family had to settle for just surviving. Now I know that God treasures me and wants the best for me. I believe that I am the daughter of the King with a great inheritance and position. All glory to our King.
And I thought it was just me. Thank you for this encouragement!
Definitely not just you, friend. You’re not alone. With you. ~Michele
Wow! It is a wonderful truth to understand. I thank God for your and my freedom in knowing who we are in Christ. I pray God will use this book greatly.
Thank you, Kathy!
One Idea I have had to overcome is that my identity isn’t tied to location …. God loves me whether I live in the suburbs of America or the slums of a third world country :)!!
SO true. So, so true.