As a teenager and young adult my identity was wrapped in my intelligence. From a young age I received compliments and it quickly formed how I identified myself. This identity went unchallenged through high school, as I coasted through school to that point. However, I found quite a challenge when I went off to college for the first time in 2002. Unfortunately I did not rise to the challenge.
It began innocent enough, I missed a day of class because I overslept. But as I did not complete work required for classes, I’d look for any reason to miss a class. Before I knew it, I missed more class than I attended. After my first semester I think I managed to pass one class.
I went home for winter break, but kept my struggles to myself. With my identity in crisis, I went back to school and saw it wounded even further as I received a letter as soon as I returned informing I was put on academic probation for the upcoming semester. I told myself over and over that I would do better. My self encouragement lasted only a week or so before I fell back into the same routine all over again. Every day I told myself today would be different, but on my own it never was different.
The worst day of the year came in April, when I received a letter informing me I would no longer be enrolled in the university. I was kicked out. My entire identity came crashing down. My heart sank in my chest, and I remember feeling an overbearing shame. I was so embarrassed I came up with a story why I would no longer be attending school. I did not tell a single person what had happened. I felt worthless. I felt alone. It was over two years before I even said the words out loud.
It was another 2 years before I ever mentioned it to someone that did not need to know. God worked on my heart over those four years. My identity, which had been fixed on self pride and my own intelligence, slowly transformed to one rooted in God. The final breakthrough came when I shared my story and my struggle. My story became an opportunity to encourage someone else. To that point my heart was not in a good place to share my struggle. I struggled to be a loving person and it was because I found it difficult to love myself. It was not until I shifted the foundation of my identity that I could be happy with who I was as a person.
When I found my identity in God, I was in a right place to share my struggle for the benefit of others. When we truly love ourselves we can share our defeats and failures to edify others. This journey spanned four years. It was uncomfortable. It was lonely at times. But I would never change it. It was in this time I truly felt God’s love in my life. The basis of what I understand love to be radiates from this period of my life. This journey taught me what it is to love God with my entire being and how to love others as myself.