I ran competitively for 11 years of my life. Needless to say, it was, and will always be, part of who I am. I even took a class in college where I was known as "5 minute mile." At the beginning of the semester we told the professor a fun fact about ourselves. Mine? The fastest I’ve ever ran a mile is 4:59.74. I took pride in my identity as a runner and, in all honesty, relied on it far too much. It is no surprise that my junior year of college, when my mental health was at an all time low and I had to walk away from a competitive Division I running program, that I felt lost and alone.
It was at that point that I had to ask myself some hard questions. Who am I? What is my purpose? Who is God calling me to be? I needed to reframe and find my identity as a daughter of God, a follower of Christ and not just a distance runner.
I devoured devotionals, prayed and sought God’s wisdom and counsel to find myself in Him and Him alone. It took many months, but I found that I truly was beloved by Him and the Scriptures helped reveal this to me. The Bible, sadly, is not something most Catholics grow up reading. It is big and can be complicated and intimidating, but it is the Word of God and God can speak to us so clearly through those words. If you open yourself up, you can be transformed by what you find.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” Jeremiah 1:5
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
He created us in His image. He created us the way He desired because He knew how beautiful we would be that way and that way alone. Why is this so simple yet so hard for us to believe? Why don’t we see that we are worthy of His love? Why do we feel like we have to define ourselves by our professions, roles or hobbies? We not only define ourselves in these ways, but even more so by how we excel or fail at them.
St. Paul reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
It is not that our passions and roles in our lives are not important. Being a wife, mom, podcaster, runner, etc. are all ways I continue to define myself. The problem comes in when we do not, first and foremost, define ourselves as sons and daughter of God. Think about that. When someone asks about you, is that the first thing that comes to mind? For me, after years of meditating on this, it still is not. The Lord showed me again recently how important it is that I define myself as His. I was praying with imaginative prayer using the passage of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). I was imagining that Mary was doing laundry prior to the Angel Gabriel’s arrival. I was watching her doing the laundry through the eyes of the Lord and saw and felt how much he loved her and how beautiful she was to Him in the most ordinary task of doing laundry.
I was pierced by this imagery and realized that my identity had gotten distorted due to my misaligned priorities. I was reminded that I do not have to do anything to deserve His love. I was reminded of the care and thoughtfulness God had when He created me. I was reminded that I am God’s handiwork.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
We were all created for a unique and individual purpose. My daily tasks might include running, working, changing diapers, and brushing my teeth, which might not seem unique at all. However, God has placed me in these circumstances to honor Him in a way no one else can. I am living the life God chose for me, the life He chose for me before I was born. When we can finally see ourselves, first and foremost, as His daughter/son, we can freely pursue our passions knowing that our worth is not measured by how well we accomplish the task, but by how we are glorifying the Lord through it.
Emily Rogers is a wife and mother of 2 boys. She has an MA in Catechetics and Evangelization from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is beginning her 4th year as a campus minister at Eastern Illinois University. When she's not at the Newman Center she can be found puttering around her neighborhood pushing the jogging stroller, sipping coffee, or working on her new podcast called Here I am. Send me! which shares stories of how people have said yes to God. Visit her website: emannrogers.com to find out more about her podcast and blog.