Friday, November 21

Identity (This and That)

Sometimes we have days (o.k. weeks) when we think:
“Is this all there is?”
“I’m a homeschooling mom. But I have two degrees and years of ministry experience [insert your own resume here]. Isn’t there something more than this?”
“I think I’d also like to do that.”
These days like to piggy-back on one another until we finally start seeking out other outlets to make us feel fulfilled and useful -- maybe even important -- because that looks so much more appealing than this.

When I hear other people’s stories… “I’m the volunteer coordinator for a major Christian non-profit,” … “I’m a nurse,” … “I’m a stay at home mom, but I work part-time from home.” … I start to think, well maybe I can do more than just this one thing. If I can do this then maybe I can also do that.

I let this little question get the best of me once and I dove into something that I thought would give me increased joy. It turns out that it wasn’t even comparable because while that added to my task list, it didn’t add to my character. After that was revealed to me as an unfortunate mismatch, I found new life in my “this”… more patience for the time that learning can take, more tolerance for the noisy toddler, more peace with why I do what I do, more creative ways to make my this distinctive, customized and infused with the essence of our faith and worldview. This is more about being than doing.

Still, I am a person outside of homeschooling. There are parts of me that are distinctively me, things that my kids don’t easily enter into, core values that I’m continually pushing toward and layers that I’m continually peeling away. Rather than exist in a continuous line I’m finding that I exist in radiating circles… I think Rilke called it “widening rings.” Before we can enlarge our identity we need to be comfortable with the identity we already have.

Thomas Merton said, “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the things I want to live for. Between those two answers you can determine the identity of any person.” (The Man in the Sycamore Tree)

What is your “that?” And has your that ever derailed your ever widening this?


  1. Oh, wow. Wow, wow.

    I've been a homeschooling (unschooling) mom for a long time (pushing two decades, I guess) and I also work from home/coffee-shop. It's funny--reading this I realized I do it too, except for me, the "that" is focusing more on the kids and the homeschooling.

    And it does sometimes derail my "this." And then I notice that it isn't me, and I need to be happy with who I am, and let the little guy enjoy the company of his bubbers while I do what I actually *do* do. :)

  2. That's a really interesting perspective, Angela. I'd love to know more about unschooling. The more I learn, the more appreciation I gain for it. Overplanning is one of those layers I'm constantly peeling away at.


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