So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:27
Understanding who God created us to be has everything to do with all aspects of our lives. Our identity touches everyone around us and even our children. Often we identify ourselves with what we do, which leads us to be disillusioned. Do we lead our family the same as we lead people or perform on our job? When we think about it, we value what we do more than who we are when we are doing it. God created us in His image; however, we walk around with our own doubts about His character. It is difficult to look at our lives, especially in times of trouble and trust in the goodness of God. Although our lives can turn upside down does not mean God’s leadership or goodness is void. We are broken people who live in a broken world. Once we recognize this truth, we understand why we cannot accept the character of God and that it is robbing us of our identity.
Who or what are we allowing to define us?
God cared enough about us to create us in His image. His love speaks volumes about His concern for us, yet, we are the ones who cannot receive His love. In our relationship with God, we must seek to discover what image God placed in us. The Lord said that “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NIV). If we are living boldly in the truth and freedom of who God created us to be, hurting and lost people will be drawn to the light of God in us. When we understand that in God’s eye, we stand naked before Him, and nothing is hidden, yet He still utterly love us. Then we can advance His Kingdom.
A Mother With No Identity
I remember when I reached adulthood, I never thought that some of the decisions or choices I made were because I did not know or recognize who I was. I could not answer the question, who am I? In my high school years, I did not know; I was trying to figure it out in all the wrong places with the wrong ideas. I ran from my possibilities. My thoughts were that people expected too much of me. What I did not comprehend was that people saw something in me that I could not see in myself. They saw my potential, my possibilities, what I could be or become. For instance, in my 11th grade year in high school, my teacher recommended me to receive a scholarship at Howard University Engineering School. That’s great news, right? I was discouraged without my family’s support and decided not to pursue it. The following year I dropped my mechanical drawing class. My parents never supported anything I did as a child; sports or music. That one small thing changed my whole course of life; I had a gift that went undeveloped. So, who was I, just someone with talent!
By the 12th grade year in high school, my mother planned my future by getting me a job at a drug store. I spent half a day in class and the rest of the day at work until 9:00 p.m. My life was not fulfilled at all! Something was missing. I didn’t feel loved! Although I was in a relationship, I did not love him, nor was I in love with him, but I wanted to be loved. Then graduation day came, and my parents did not discuss college as an option for me. I began to make bad decisions based on a need to feel loved. Therefore, I got pregnant with the idea that I would have someone to love and someone to love me. Nine months later, this bundle of joy came into the world. It’s a girl! Though I was happy, I disappointed so many people to include my parents. Nevertheless, she was the love of my life and lit up my world.
My decision had consequences that I had never imagined. I had to grow up fast to be responsible for that decision. Responsibility meant all the financial hardship it took to raise a child. I was 18 years old with a baby, still living at home with my mother, working at a drug store, and only a high school education. My mother held me accountable for the choice I made, and my father disowned me. Going out for a night on the town was not an option for me because my mother was not the babysitter. I remember how I would sit on my porch and watch some of my friends who had a child as well walk around freely without their child. Not me, I had to take her wherever I went. It was like I had to prove to my mother that I was a responsible person before she would offer an ounce of support.
My mother’s support did not include any ideas I had to improve myself or the situation for the sake of my child. The responsibility of motherhood became stable enough where I had developed a routine; I enrolled in a community college with accounting as my primary course of study. I worked full-time during the day, came home to take care of my child, and went to school full-time at night. It wasn’t long before my mother interrupted the program and wanted me to focus on work and my child. My mother did not see the importance of me going to school to better my situation; therefore, she no longer would watch my child while I attended school. I was not comfortable leaving my daughter with someone else nor burden anyone with my problems. So, I dropped out of college.
Although I was a responsible single mother, I was still lost, longing, and unfulfilled. My daughter was the light of my life. However, there was more to my life than identifying myself as a mother. I was incomplete. I was seeking and learning who I was at a time that it should have known, which was before I had a child. Something was still missing! I did not feel the love of God or that He loved me. Why? I did not factor Him in my decisions. I did not build a two-way relationship with God. Yes, I often prayed out of ritual and acknowledgment from how I grew up in the church; however, I never knew God responded to me and was always with me. I was His child lost in this world, and He had been waiting for me. All while I was looking in the wrong places and at the wrong people to no end trying to fill a hole that just kept growing. I do not regret having my daughter; instead, I missed a greater blessing of being in a right relationship with God through my parental role.
A Mother’s Identity Matters
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I (God) will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15, NIV).
As mothers, God has demonstrated throughout the Bible, the imagery of a mother. These images paint God as a protecting and sheltering God for His people. The premise to comprehend mothers created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we must view motherhood as a reflection of God’s maternal attributes, and draw on the maternal images of God as a reality in our lives. God chooses to reveal himself in Scripture through language that characterizes the role of a mother. For instance: as a mother eagle caring for her young (Deut. 32:11, 18), a woman in labor and giving birth (Isa. 42:14), a nursing mother (Isa. 49:15), a comforting mother (Isa. 66:13), a mother teaching her child (Hos. 11:3-4), and a protective mother bear (Hos. 13:8). Jesus used images to describe motherhood when he lamented over Jerusalem and used the imagery of a mother hen, suggesting the comfort and concern of a mother (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). Also, in Luke 5:8-10, Jesus described a woman cleaning her house to find a lost coin.
Therefore, mothers’ love is an expression of the heart of God. Prescribing God’s image as a model highlights obedience to God, reliance on his Word for growth, and dependence on God for both spiritual and natural birth as central to the parenting process. However, some mothers tell stories of exhaustion, irritation, anger, and helplessness—emotions that are less than divine. God’s maternal images are not meant for mothers today to be perfect or suggest our struggles as signs of failure, instead guide us in our parental role.
When mothers can associate their current identity and parental role with problematic God images, they may have an opportunity to discover who they are and their purpose in life, which may lead to positive outcomes. When the “God representation” is framed by idealized parental images, the image of the Almighty evolves as a model for all parents. A variation of the image paints a God who also pushes His children to be independent and to grow stronger.
A Mother’s Lesson
I hope my story helps other mothers to understand why it is so important to know who you are, love who you are, and that having a baby is not your identity. It is for these reasons I had a baby that did not identify me but caused my child and me to endure prolonged suffering. It is easy for most females to have a baby, but if you do not know your identity before you have a baby, then it is more than likely to make some bad choices attached to suffering. I cannot express enough how precious and impressionable children are and how much they look up to us for guidance. But if we do not have ourselves together, it is almost impossible to guide and support our child correctly. How can you help them discover their identity or significance? There is a catchy phrase, “I‘m finding myself,” but what I realized is we have to go back to where we lost it. You can’t find something if it was not first lost.
In other words, at birth, we had an identity, but somewhere along the way, no one reminded us about our identity or how significant our birth means in this world. Therefore, it matters that as mothers, we support our children no matter what the cost or circumstance. We are the first to mold them and shape them just like the clay on the pottery wheel. It is up to us to affirm our children and show interest in what matters to them so that when others see greatness in them and can help them progress so that they can see it in themselves and accept their own identity.