Who AM I? : Beyond the BEAR

Who AM I?

by Dola Spering on 03/20/20

Who am I?

In case you missed it, I recently announced that I am leaving my career as a teacher and will be working with Project BEAR full time. This change wasn't entirely surprising for me individually, but it is a huge change.

For almost 2 decades, when someone asked me what I do for a living or who I was I could say "I am a teacher." I've known I wanted to be a teacher since 10th grade. I got my job right after college graduation and I stayed at that school until now. I love teaching. I love the students and I love the subject. (I taught high school science - biology, chemistry and anatomy.) But I know this is the right move for me and my family, and for Project BEAR. Teaching has been such a large part of my identity and it feels weird not being a teacher. I actually took this school year off so I could be more present at home for my husband and kids, and to take care of my mental and emotional health, so I've had some practice not being a teacher. But now it is permanent. And even though I've known in my heart that it was coming, I'm still having a hard time describing myself in my own head without the word "teacher."

So now I guess I have to define myself as Project BEAR, right? I'm a loss-mama who started a charity to help other loss-mamas. Who am I? I am a wife, a mother to 3 beautiful living and amazing children, 2 beautiful baby boys who are waiting for me in heaven, and I run a charity that serves others who are grieving the loss of a baby. Oh, and I used to be a high school science teacher. But is all that really who I am? All of that could change in an instant.

Who are we? Are we our job? Are we mom, wife, grandmother? Are we simply baby-loss mamas? How do we define ourselves to others and ultimately, to ourselves? Does it even matter?

I think it does matter. It matters a lot because how we define ourselves is often how we define our worth. So if we define ourselves by our career, if we aren't where we want to be (or where others expect us to be) we can see our worth as lower. Do we define ourselves by our relationships? If so, a divorce or lack of relationship can make us feel like we aren't valuable. Do we define ourselves by our children? As loss-mamas, I sure hope not. Do we see ourselves as less than because we've lost a child? Do you tell yourself you're not good enough because you miscarried, or had a stillbirth? Are you a failure because, for whatever reason (and most way beyond your control), your baby didn't make it? NO mama (papa). You are not worthless, less than, a failure. No matter the circumstances surrounding your baby's death, you are valuable. You have more worth than you could ever imagine and you are so much more than a baby-loss survivor.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that those events and circumstances don't change you. (See my previous post on healing.) But they do not have to define you. You are creative, funny, kind, brilliant, [insert any fitting positive adjective here]. I am silly and fun-loving and I see the best in people and situations.

But what's more than that, there is someone who defines my identity, even when I don't feel silly, or fun-loving and when I can't find the good in anything at all. I believe that my identity comes from the one who created me. And since He created all of time and space and reality, what He says about me IS reality. It is more real than what I may be feeling about myself in any given moment. My value does not come from my career, how much money I make (which is good because now I don't make any), how many kids I have or how many of them are still with me here on Earth. He determines my value, and what's more - He determined my value before He made the foundations for the Earth. Before I was even able to do anything for Him or choose to love Him, He loved me and called me His own.

So, how does the Creator of the universe define me? First of all, He calls me His dearly loved child. Romans 8:15 says, 'So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you have received God's Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, "Abba, Father."'   Ephesians 5:1 says, "follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children."

As a parent, I know what it's like to have a dearly loved child. And to know that that is how God sees me, well it just blows me away. And He loves me with a perfect love and He is a good father. Matthew 7 compares earthly parents with our Father in Heaven. It says that if even we, imperfect people, can give good gifts to our kids, "how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him."

Beyond just being a dearly loved child by a good Father, God tells me in His word that I am chosen. The creator of the entire universe, who could have anything and everything He wants, has chosen me. Me. The one who was always chosen last in gym class. Ephesians 1:4 says "He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight." That means that before I did anything, He chose me. I didn't have to earn it. I couldn't have earned it. But I can't un-earn it either. He calls me blameless and holy. Even though I've given Him every reason to regret His choice, over and over again. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning." It's as if every morning He chooses me again.

Finally, God calls me His masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10a says, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus." What do you think of when you hear the term 'masterpiece?' I know personally, I think of a work of art. Not something done over night, but I imagine the artist with a vision in his/her head, working tirelessly to make that vision come to life.

The mystery of God is that He is both making me His masterpiece and has already called me His masterpiece. And I know that even when I don't feel, or in all honesty, look like a masterpiece, I know He is faithful to finish the work He has started. (Philippians 1:6)

Chosen child; dearly loved; work of art. That is my identity. That is who I am.

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