We are kicking off this Contenders of the Faith series by talking about our identity in Christ. God’s love is the source of our identity, which is why God calls His children by the name Beloved. My first guest, Bethany, is sharing with us her journey to discover this amazing truth.
If you missed the very first post in this series, you can catch up right here.
Lost & Found: A Story of Identity by Bethany Dufilho
I was one of those kids who never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I liked singing so I was always in a choir at church or school. It was something I never really worked at but I experienced some success and enjoyed the sense of identity and belonging it gave me. I was a big-ish fish in a few small-ish ponds. As I got older, the ponds got bigger. I played into a comparison game full of my own perfectionism and pride and eventually, my tender ego was deflated. Add to that a neurological issue diagnosed in my 30s causing tremors in my voice and I gave up singing for a while. It was a painful stripping of an identity I hadn’t realized I had clung to so fiercely.
After I was married, still not really knowing what I wanted to do, I enrolled in graduate school. Holding some identity also in “being smart,” I had always known higher education would be in my future. I was training to become a school psychologist. I also very much wanted to become a mother. I knew these two could coexist, but seeing things as very “all or nothing,” I struggled with the pieces of understanding how I could be good; rather, perfect at both. My identity felt at odds with itself.
When I had our first child, my outward achieving stopped for a while. I developed the slower pace of stay at home motherhood. Here I threw my perfectionist tendencies into overdrive, pouring my anxieties onto my tiny babe. Was I doing this the “right” way? If not, oh God, I’m screwing him up! The struggle to identify myself as what I thought a mother should be was frightening and real.
After emerging from the fog of new parenthood, I then developed a hobby for pure enjoyment: painting and rearranging my house. Friends and family took notice and I prized the recognition of a new identity forming: decorator. I ran with it, eventually creating a small business. Was this now my identity? I decided to go all in: taking classes, ordering business cards, even making a website. I took comfort, dare I say, pride, in finding my thing.
After a while, I took on too much. The work, impinging on my introverted self, also became a burden on my desire to still be a stay at home mother to my now three children. I felt resentful when I couldn’t be my version of perfect for both my family and my clients. The stress was hard on both my home and marriage. I was disappointed in myself but also relieved in admitting my need to pull back.
So here I am now. I still decorate, though in a smaller way than I once imagined. I’m still a wife and mother of course. I’m even singing again- every Sunday morning along with my husband, for a group of eager and antsy first and second graders. I have no labels or job descriptions to succinctly tell you who I am or what I can do. Looking back though I can now see the thread running through every turn in my life. It’s always been the same, because it has always been me. I still bear the same sin struggles, the same personality, the same weaknesses and strengths. I am the same soul. Whether I have been singing, mothering, in school, decorating, it has always been me. And at times I found myself wondering… is it enough? Am I enough?
I’ve been studying the enneagram lately. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s really just a tool, similar to anything else that can help you know yourself better, like seeing a therapist or reading a book on personal growth. It teaches the importance of knowing yourself fully– the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s an uncomfortable act of faith- to bring into light the sins you bear, but also (at times equally uncomfortable) to develop compassion and grace for yourself, seeing and loving yourself as God does.
So how would my life change if I could fully and daily embrace that truth- that God loves me entirely, imperfect as I am? So much so that Christ died for me while I was (am) still a sinner (Romans 5:8)? How much more would I be able to love others when, freed from the trap of perfectionism, I could set aside my own needs for approval and acknowledgement? I could lay down comparisons, defensiveness, and pride. How healing this is- this embracing of the gospel message in my own identity: as a beloved child of God.
This very struggle is what I think it means to contend for my faith; to work out my salvation with both fear and trembling (Phillippians 2:12). Sometimes I want contending to look more like a sword fight- a big battle fought and won, once and for all. But I think it is more quiet and small, done in hidden and daily stillness before the Lord. Seeking His wisdom; His love.
I cannot do this on my own, because truthfully many days I find myself unable, un-remembering to even cry out from the very outset of the morning. I start to again believe the lie that it would be easier to have a job title or task to hide behind: “I’ll serve you in this way, Lord!”
And this is why I need Him. Oh, I need Him. Every hour I need Him. He has entrusted to us the gospel, this good news of love and redemption through Christ. This message is not only to be received once and then shared, but also to be remembered over and over in our own lives- we are loved. May we seek Him and may we cry out to Him, for our healing and for His glory.
Bethany Dufilho has been married to Paul for 13 years and they have three children ages 9, 7, and 4. They live in Katy, TX where she is a stay at home mom and part time interior decorator. She is a lover of beauty and a seeker of Truth and occasionally blogs over at thehouseoffigs.com. There you can read about her adventures in decorating and hear the heart behind her beauty with a purpose philosophy.
We’ve been given gospel identities, rooted deeply in perfect Love. May Bethany’s story remind us all that Love is greater than our doubts, fears, and insecurities. I love how she describes contending as a quiet, hidden wrestling of soul. As God transforms us into the image of His Son, may we remember that our faith is a precious gift to nurture, protect, and defend.
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