For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139 13-14
Just last week, the women of my church gathered to discuss the foundation of a new women’s ministry. During the presentation, one of the speakers asked if we’d ever heard of the phrase “hot mess express”? The room filled with answers as ladies of all ages cried out, “YES!” and “AMEN!” I whispered to the woman beside me, “Story of my life.”
We can all feel like our lives are out of control, like we just can’t seem to get it together! No matter how hard we try, we feel like failures in all aspects of life. When this happens, we hear the devil quietly tells us, “You are unworthy.” And we, too many times, believe it.
I heard these words loud and clear when I went from being a part-time server and college student to a full-time high school teacher. Before teaching, I was not the “hot mess express” that everyone talks about. I was a wife who had time to wash clothes, cook supper, and meal plan. I was a straight-A college student. I went to the gym and drank 64 oz. of water a day like I’m supposed to. While I may be looking at the past with rose-colored glasses, I remember having the necessary time, and I prided myself on being able to do the things that needed to be done for my family. This gave me satisfaction and purpose.
When I became a teacher, my husband was just getting out of the Marine Corps. During this time, we literally switched roles. I became the breadwinner, and he became a full-time college student and worked part-time. If you know anything about teachers, you know that we work well beyond 8 hours a day. During my first year, I taught 9th and 10th grade English, I was the assistant cheer coach, and, in order to obtain my teaching certification, I had to fulfill two to three 4-hour long classes each month. To have my life in some kind of order, I would wake up at 4am, read whatever it was that I was teaching that day, lesson plan, go to work, go to cheer practice from 3:45pm-5:30pm, go back to my classroom to grade, and then I would finally go home around 8pm. I did that every day for months. Needless to say, I was busy and exhausted.
Because I was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained as a teacher, I started slacking in my role as a wife. When I would finally get home at 8pm, do you know what I would see? I would see my husband loading the dishwasher, folding clothes, or cooking dinner. I would see him wiping down the kitchen counters and putting clothes in the dryer. A normal person would be thrilled to have a husband who did the household chores in her absence. A normal person would thank God for giving her such an amazing teammate in life. A normal person would not become overwhelmed with rage when seeing this.
Unfortunately, I was not acting as a normal, sane person. . .
I was so angry. But, if I’m being honest, I used anger to mask my shame. I was embarrassed of the fact that I didn’t know how to work full-time and do all things that a home and marriage required. The more I saw my husband doing the chores I used to do, the more I was reminded of my failures. I bought into the idea that women can (and should) “do it all,” but when I couldn’t, I felt like I had failed as a woman and as a wife.
My husband was doing all the things that I gained satisfaction and worthiness from. I wasn’t upset with him, I was upset that I didn’t have the time to do it all. But when our lives and roles changed, my job became all-consuming, and the “Good Wife” identity I prescribed to for 5 years of our marriage was now unobtainable. As silly as it may sound, I didn’t know where to find fulfillment and gratification. For the first time, I knew what it was like to be aboard the “Hot Mess Express.”
After months of trying to find balance in my life, I spoke to a trusted sister In Christ. I explained just how disorderly and chaotic my life was: I would lesson plan in my car on the way to work, I was overwhelmed with trying to finish the teacher certification program, cheer practice was getting in the way of grading, I had no time to help my husband around the house, I didn’t cook anymore, I was eating every single carb in sight, I didn’t have time to go to the gym, coffee had replaced water, the list went on and on.
She listened and simply said, “Go read Psalm 139, and if you don’t get anything from it, read it again and again until you do.” So, I did. Verses 13-14 reads, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it.” After reading this, I began to feel the Holy Spirit move in me. I realized that I was putting all of my energy into fulfilling a role that wasn’t even the role I was created for. I was too worried about being a woman of the world instead of a daughter of the King. This verse changed my perspective on who I am and what should be my priority. I was confronted with God telling me that HE should be my center. Instead of a woman who “does it all,” I was to be a woman pleasing to God, the Creator of my body, mind, and soul.
Our identity does not come from how great of a wife we are. It doesn’t come from how much time we have to devote to home or work or children. Our identity doesn’t reside in how fit our bodies are or how much money we make. While all these duties, titles and commitments can be important, these are not the things that define us.
Our identity resides in Christ alone. We are His daughters. He created us, and He says we are marvelous! In verses 15-16, David says, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” In the margins of my bible, I have written, “You, God, were there first, and you should remain first!”
I know I’m not the only one who has tried to find affirmation, fulfillment, and worthiness in things, people, and titles. We are so much more than wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, and/or professionals. We are so much more than the messes we create and the roles we feel we never live up to.
Whether we call ourselves a “hot mess express” or “wonderfully complex,” when focus on God and believe in the depths of our hearts that we are the daughters of the one true King, we will begin to find where our worth and identity truly resides.
Is there a worldy identity that you are clinging to? If so, ask God to change your perspective. Allow him to show you who you are in Christ.
Are you struggling in certain (or all) areas of your life? Ask God to show you what it looks like to put Him first.