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Identity Crisis


For the majority of my life, I've been analyzing. Ever since I was little I had an interest in human nature. Why do we do what we do? What makes a human? Who are we? (Pretty deep questions!) It wasn't just that per se, but I've took notice to what kind of people seem to gel together, what makes people happy or sad, what makes them tick. I've observed quirks or little habits most people wouldn't even notice in a conversation. I really liked to learn about people.

I spent a lot of my "tween" years and the beginning of my teen years believing that I had everyone figured out but me. I could understood someone at their inner core, their feelings, their motives, their drive, but no one could really say that about me. It was seldom for someone to divert a conversation for me so I could avoid being uncomfortable, or to ask me how I was doing. But how I was really doing. It's a pretty arrogant thought, when I looked back on it now.


I've always been the girl who would stand back for a minute and watch. I still really like to. I'd watch people, and without realizing it, I would simultaneously be creating in my head the perfect version of myself for this person I had in my mind. I could tell that so and so would want someone funny, or so and so needed someone intellectual. I'd change myself to the version that they would prefer. And to be honest with you, it wasn't much fun.

My hometown congregation is pretty small, with about 100 members. Only a small fraction of members were teenagers, so we were grouped together, from 7th grade to Seniors. I had known these people all my life, but I didn't know them personally. I remember the harsh white light seemed to blare on my face as I took my spot. I was the youngest out of all these people, and it seemed to show. They all talked about college, and I felt left out. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. They all had life experiences I hadn't even began! Significant others, jobs, high school, college plans, you get the picture. And here I was, stuck, because I had lived in the same town my entire life, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. It had always fluctuated.

I believed to some degree that I was defined by what college I was going to and who my family was.

Living in the same town that my grandpa grew up in, my introduction is quite unique. I'll usually introduce myself, and if they look confused, I'll probably add, "I'm Bill Bob's granddaughter," or "I'm John and Maria's daughter," and usually people know who I am! That might seem humorous, but for some time, I felt like that was all I'd ever be. I couldn't wait to be my own person. Little did I know that my plans of moving away one day would be going by pretty slowly. And when I say slow, I mean slow.

Right before 7th grade started, I had this idea to join cross country. To this day, I'm not really sure where that idea came from. I remember telling my parents that I was going for it, and though supportive, they were a little bit surprised too! I had never mentioned an interest in running, and this was the first time I'd be doing any kind of school sport.

From August to October, I ran 3 miles a day in the brutal Missouri heat. I struggled to keep up with the people on my team. Workouts were tough, and most days I didn't come home until 6:00. On top of running, I was juggling school and my identity. I'd cry, do my homework, eat dinner, and go to sleep. Then I'd do it all over again. I wanted to be this star runner I saw in my head. I wanted popularity and attention, I wanted a lot of friends. It was a pretty shallow wish list. But on the upside, I wanted to be reading my Bible everyday. I wanted to go to Bible class. I didn't want to cuss. I didn't want to cheat. So I didn't.

I soon realized that I wasn't going to be very popular because I knew I wanted those things more. I saw a value in God that wasn't fleeting, it didn't change, and was priceless. I could have the entire world, but without God, I was empty. I could have all the friends I wanted, but I'd still feel lonely. I could buy the "right" clothes, hang out with the "right" people, talk the "right" way. I could live like the world, but it wouldn't change the fact that inside, I was dealing with insecurity about my identity.

I remember one summer my mom challenged me and my sisters to memorize Psalm 1. To this day, I still remember it, and I'm glad I didn't forget them. Those words didn't become real to me until only a couple months ago. I was on an airplane, miles above the people below me, and the words hit me there, thousands of feet in the air. At one point I was going to land and face the same challenges I had always faced. But with new eyes, I could take delight in the Lord. That chapter tells us that the person who dedicates their life to God is like a tree planted by the water. He/she doesn't move or compromise with the world. Their foundation and identity is rooted in God.

Life changes. We grow up, we learn, and hopefully become better. I had a mindset change. Finally I wouldn't have to be this person that everyone was telling me I had to be. I didn't have to do what the world was telling me to do. It took me forever to realize that. I'm still not perfect, but I'm definitely getting there.

The thing is, who God tells me I am versus who the world says I am are two different people. The world says that it's impossible, it's not worth it, I'm not able, I'm afraid, I feel all alone. Those lies that the world planted in me were some of the biggest that I believed. But God said that all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), that it will be worth it (Romans 8:28) , I am able (Ephesians 3:20), I shall have nothing to fear (2 Timothy 1:7), and that he will never leave me (Hebrews 13:5).

Your identity is all rooted in God. I am God's daughter. I am a Christian. I am the sheep, he is my shepherd. We go to our wits end to find our identity. You can see here that I went to drastic measures to seek the approval of the world. I went searching and came back empty handed. I can never be satisfied without God.

See, identity is pretty simple. We complicate it, but at it's core, it's who you are. I'm Elena Kallenbach. I'm God's daughter. I'm a Christian. That's it. Yep, those are some big titles, but they are true. That sums up who I am.

Psalm 46:5 says,"God is within her, she will not fall. God will help her at break of day." (NIV) When we abide in God, he's everywhere. I see God in people. I see God in color. In music, in voices. I see him in creation. I saw God in the smallest of towns, the smallest of voices, I saw him. I continually see him.

It wasn't that something changed, because not much did. My circumstances remained constant, but my attitude and mindset made all the difference. A change of heart doesn't just change the heart, but our mind, our vision, our passion, our entire outlook.

Identity isn't something you have to earn, it's recognition of the person God intended for you to be. It's not a fabricated, perverted, or twisted. It's authentic. It's 110% living by God's Word.

Celebrate life!

Elena Kallenbach


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