A couple of years ago, I was speaking to a group at my church on the topic of understanding and managing emotions. I taught for an hour, then opened it up for questions. My foundation was jolted when one dear woman very sweetly asked me if I was grounded in my identity in Christ, why would I need tools to support me in managing my emotions. I didn’t have an answer. I knew I didn’t want to be flippant, thinking my identity in Christ wasn’t relevant, nor did I want to say identity was the only piece of the puzzle. I went on a six-month journey to find my answer to her question.  In the end, I decided we were both right.

My journey into my own spiritual paradigm revealed that I had a messed-up definition of what “identity in Christ” meant. I was raised with the idea that my identity in Christ was a mask of protection I was to put on any time God might be angry with me. The response to God’s anger was sort of like, “Ha! Got my identity in place, so you can’t get me!” That is a bit twisted!

What God revealed to me during this six-month journey was that we ALL have the identity of his son. We can’t opt out, nor can we opt in. Our identity was set on the cross forever and now it is up to our own free will to decide whether we will live out that identity or deny that identity. The most powerful passages for me on this beautiful new reality are Ephesians 2:11-22 and 2 Corinthians 4 and 5. These passages reveal the completeness of that identity exchange and the full guarantee that there is no going back. Jesus did it, and it can’t be undone!

What that meant for me was a complete re-centering of my relationship with myself. If I bear the full identity of Christ, that means I have the capacity for wholehearted, fully engaged living without shame! Prior to this understanding, my days were full of long rants against myself in my head for all the ways I had messed up in my parenting, as a human being wandering through my everyday life, and as a daughter, sister, and friend. Once I began to really understand my identity in Christ, I came to understand that when Jesus looks at me, he sees a fearfully and wonderfully made sister and daughter (Psalm 139). It became very difficult for me to engage in the shaming rants in my head. Shame is all about believing we are defective in some way. If I bear the image of Christ, I am no longer able to honestly say I am defective. I can say I am human and I am learning. I can say Jesus is transforming me to love in a more Christ-like way. I can no longer say I am defective and unworthy of love and relationship.

When I fully embrace that beautiful, almost-too-good-to-be-true knowledge that I bear his image, I begin to embrace all of who I am. My mistakes become life lessons. My hurtful words become indicators that I need to connect with God. My frustrations become reminders to slow down. Most importantly, when I stand firmly on the foundation of my identity in Christ, I become a more loving and engaged parent, daughter, sister, and friend.

Jill Jerabek is a relationship coach and parenting expert who supports individuals and families in living a more focused, balanced, nurtured life by healing past wounds, practicing forgiveness, establishing boundaries, and developing relationship with self, others, God, and the everyday world of schedules and commitments.