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Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

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June 14, 2010

Identity Crisis

Losing who we are and gaining much more

Identity is a funny thing. We often base it upon the realities of our day-to-day: “I’m a mom,” “I’m an athlete,” “I’m a teacher.” What we do becomes who we are, which happens easily when we invest in a vocation, craft, or gift.

So we naturally experience a sense of vertigo when our seeming significance is ripped from us. Who do we become when we can’t do what we feel we’re made to do, what we’re supposed to do in order to minister to others, or to keep our own sanity?

Maybe the change is health-related. Or someone telling us, “Actually, this might not be your gift.” Or it could simply be a change in life circumstances. When we’ve placed our sense of being into a fragile vessel, what happens to our identity when that vessel shatters?

I experienced this confusion my freshman year of college. I was a voice major, and singing was my thing. I felt comfortable calling myself a singer. But when I was put on vocal rest (no lessons, no choir, no performing) because of a nodule on my vocal chords, I went into an existential tailspin. If I wasn’t—even temporarily—a singer, who was I?

This was a time of wrestling for me, a time of shedding my comfortable skin of doing. Awkwardly at first, I moved toward a deeper sense of self. God used this difficulty to show me gifts I didn’t know were there, passions that hadn’t yet developed because of my singular focus.

My sense of identity wasn’t wrong, but it was narrow. These identities we give ourselves matter. It would be naïve to say they don’t. They matter deeply as evidence of our unique humanity, beings made in the image of an incarnated Savior.

But we need to allow room for the Holy Spirit to redefine and deepen these identities. Sometimes the only way we find our true self is by—willingly or not—giving up who we thought we were and letting God smash and broaden our rigid ideas about him and what he can do through us.

What about you: Have you experienced this painful identity crisis? How did God surprise you during that time?

Related Tags: identity; purpose


It has been 10 years since our lives were thrown into a tailspin with our son's Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis. Ten years, two wheelchairs, more Doctors appointments than I care to remember and I still haven't figured it out. Its not that God hasn't spoken to me in this time. He has given me promises and been so faithful to those promises of provision for my son's needs. But what I am supposed to do now. I won't be the mom who sees her children all leave the nest, there is a very real chance that I will outlive my son. I know there has to be more than just this life of isolation, but I don't know what it is yet that God has for me in all of this. I am trying to be open to His voice but fear and grief are getting in the way.

I was always one of the "smart people" growing up: made all A's, that sort of thing. I was comfortable in my role as most studious student in pretty much any class I was in. (I wasn't necessarily the smartest, just the most driven to kill myself with over-studying!) Then my junior year of college started: I had an emotional breakdown and developed mono. Suddenly, I no longer had the energy to study as much as I used to. I went from straight A's to making two C's the first semester; I had Latin quizzes come back with zero's at the top. Ouch. God surprised me, though; he used this time period to strip me of my pride and force me to rely on him for strength to make it through each day. (There have been other times of identity crisis in my life, but I won't go into those online.)

Thanks for sharing! I can definitely relate! I've been going through a weird season of life lately and maybe a lot of it is an "identity crisis." For so much of my life, my life was defined for me. The always perfectionist, school was my life. So when I graduated from college 2 years ago, everything changed. God blessed me with a good job almost right away, but it is just a temporary thing to earn a living while I've been trying to pursue my passion and what I went to school for: writing. I feel wavering in this in between stage, like I don't really know who I am right now. But maybe that's why I'm here. God wants to take away everything that I tried to define myself by and He wants to show me who I am in Him and what He has for me.

At the age of 34 my youngest child was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. Its been a real trying time and it been over ten yers.I have been blessed to be at home with her all her life thus far. All the hospilations and a serious car accident for me with steel plates in my neck. I keep asking God what im I suppose to be doing now. I feel like a failure in so many ways yet I know that not to be the case. I know God created my daughter for a reason yet it not clear as to me why and the suffering this child is going even at the age of 16 now. Its hurts when she goes through her espiodes of aggression and other things due to this disorder and I don't understand. Yet I been home for over ten years and it has left me pineing for something to do. I want to be productive in society, yet I can't hold a regular job due to my child's disability. In all this I feel so much pain for her and what she is going through. The most hurting of this is that when she is hospitalized and calls and says she feels frustrated and depression and feels like giving up I ask her to PRAY. She doesn't understand why is her life like this yet I know God is still in control. Wishing as a parent I could take away her pain and agony. Yet I struggle hearing God's voice in all this that is going on. I hope I don't sound selfish at all. Still waiting for a change to come!

If you look up "identity crisis" in the dictionary, surely my picture is there. I'm a military wife in my early 40's, married for over 16 years. I have been so busy conforming to my husband's identity, that now I have no clue has to my own. I started on the path to finding it a few years ago, only to be hit with a chronic illness and more setbacks than I can count. I just do my best to try to get through each day, waiting for the answers to come. I know God must have some kind of plan for me in all of this, but I have no idea what it is yet.

After 17 years of marriage I found myself no longer defined by the word wife...I had placed all of my energies into being a wife and mother. It took me a long time to reaccquaint my self with who I was in Christ. First to recognize that I was a child of God and then to realize that when I lost all I considered dear that was when I realized my identity in Christ. Reading the e-mails above I see so much pain...I've prayed for you sisters. I have had to deal with rejection, shame and humiliation and then as a single mother with all the difficulties my kids went through and are still going through Teenage pregnancies - more than one, drugs, drinking, jail). But the most marvellous thing is that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ and when we have our identity in Him that is what keeps us going.

I am working at remembering that who I AM is a child of God. Another blogger pointed out recently, "I'm a guy who writes,not a writer who is a guy." I am a Christ follower who is a mom, a wife, a writer, a jewelry maker, a hater of cooking. When something is taken from me, like my first two babies, Adam and Charis, I remember now #though I didn't see it then# that who I am won't change even if what I do does.

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