We started Season 2 of Heaven Made Marriage Moments on our YouTube Channel with an episode called Big Changes and New Beginnings. In case you missed it, be sure to check it out, as it sets the context for the series we’re currently doing, sharing our recent personal experience dealing with big transitions and how these impacted our marriage.
Facing the Loss of Identity
Today, I’m sharing about how our sense of identity can be shaken whenever our life circumstances change. Whether it’s the birth of children or children leaving the nest, whether a job change, moving, or the death of a loved one, these are the times when we most struggle to know who we are in the new season. Even smaller changes like children entering school or daycare, a family illness, or a job promotion can similarly leave with a sense of feeling somewhat lost.
What Defines You?
One thing we discovered rather quickly after retirement and moving to our mountain home is that both Jenni and I had much of our identity tied up in what we do. For me, it was as a top strategic influencer at my company and my role in marriage ministry. For Jenni, it was her many years in children’s ministry and, more recently, as a campus pastor, always surrounded by children and families. For both of us, we received a lot of affirmation from the people in our sphere of influence.
We both discovered that when the positive feedback and affirmation were suddenly removed, our sense of self was suddenly shaken. We realized that our identity was tied in an unhealthy manner to what we did instead of who we are. We had allowed our jobs, our influence, and other people to define us rather than getting our identity from who God says we are.
Toward a True Identity
As I’ve mentioned previously, we took the entire year of 2022 off from ministry, making it a year of sabbatical to focus on adjusting to our new life. Truthfully, we were so busy the first half of the year that the real work of transition and focused rest didn’t start until August.
The inner work we did during our sabbatical season was rooted in slowing down, drawing close to Jesus, and listening to the Holy Spirit. In the process, we had to learn to let go of our former sources of identity and hear who God says we are. We were reminded that we are, first and foremost, children of a good and loving Father and the beloved bride of our Bridegroom, Jesus. It was a season of returning to our “first love,” learning to receive God’s immeasurable love for us and freely express our love and devotion back to him.
Learning to remain in the identity the Lord has for us and not return to relying on what other people think of us is an ongoing process. It means staying close to Jesus and listening for the whispers of the Holy Spirit to redirect our thinking when we begin to drift back into old patterns.
Marriage Lessons Learned
We had the privilege of working together through our identity issues at the same time and the blessing of being on the same page as we worked through it. We’d like to share a few of the key takeaways we had regarding the impact on our relationship:
- Time – we found that working through our transition took much longer than either of us figured. I felt impatient with the process, especially early on. But God kept reminding us to slow down and take the time needed for the Lord to work on our hearts and minds. Transformation doesn’t come quickly, so be patient with yourself, with each other, and with the Lord as he works in you.
- Grieving – In working through our transition, we discovered that there is a very important middle stage between what was and what will be. It’s in this “in between” time when we can feel lost and uncertain. I’ve heard it described as being in an empty hallway while moving from one room to another. While time and patience are an important part of the middle stage, so is the grieving that which we have left behind. It’s necessary to process the “loss” of whatever was before we can clearly see the possibility of what can be as the future unfolds. Letting go of the things in which we found our security and identity can be painful, and pain can create separation in your relationship. That leads me to the third of our lessons learned:
- Grace – Transitions can be challenging mentally, spiritually, and physically, and it’s best to navigate these challenges together. That’s going to take a good amount of grace toward each other as you each face your struggles. Forgive quickly, encourage regularly, and do all in your power to maintain your connection through it all.
- Communication – Jenni and I learned to be very proactive in sharing with each other what was going on in our hearts and heads. That helped a great deal in keeping us in sync with each other and maintaining our connection. One method of sharing we used that was helpful was to share our journal musings with each other.
Hopefully, you and your spouse can benefit from our experience of transition and our struggle to find our true identity. We’d love to hear what kind of transitions you are facing or have faced in your marriage and what the Lord has taught you through it. Feel free to leave a comment with your story.
Below is our most the Heaven Made Marriage Moments YouTube episode that corresponds to this post: