Practices to Anchor Your Identity in Christ

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Practices to Anchor Your Identity in Christ

A discussion with Trillia Newbell, Jen Pollock Michel, and Jen Wilkin


The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. 

Jen Wilkin: I know you guys know women are always dealing with the issue of identity. It’s a question that comes up all of the time. And so I’m curious, what are your own practices that help you keep your identity rooted in Christ?

Trillia Newbell: Yeah. Well, my answer is really short, read the Word. It’s important. But really, I think it’s important to just…that’s where I remind myself of who I am in Christ, reading Ephesians, just the first chapter all about being in Christ. Well, the whole book is such a great book. So for me, when I lose my way or I’m starting to idolize something and try to seek identity, and hope and put my trust in something else, I have to run to the Lord. So my practice is reminding myself of Scripture, preaching the truth to myself from reading God’s word, and so yeah. What about you?

Jen Pollock Michel: Yeah, I would say for sure it’s just church, it’s just being with God’s people. You know, and it’s so that’s…the Sunday morning, and worship. I feel like every time we move through that liturgy, it just sort of reminds me, like, I am God’s child. He’s called me, He’s cleansed me, He commands with me. Like we have these kind of Cs, the four Cs in our liturgy and it’s just rehearsing the story of like, who I am as God’s child and who we all are together as God’s people. And I think, you know, sometimes I just sort of drag myself in there, you know, on a Sunday morning. Like you’re kind of half-doubting, half-believing, you’ve had a really hard week. And it’s almost as if other people are believing on your behalf too, like they’re saying these things of like, you know, what is true about us? What is true about the world? And even if you don’t feel like you necessarily even believe it on a Sunday morning, you hear somebody else beside you saying it and it rings true and it sort of reorients you.

Wilkin: Yeah. And I don’t think there’s any shame in the forgetting, you know, we get forgetful, you know, the rhythm of the Bible is remember, remember, remember because we need to be reminded. And I know, for me, in addition to the things you guys have said, which obviously I fully am behind, I think about people I know who are in difficult circumstances, who are grounded in who they are in Christ. And I ask myself, if they are pressing forward and they have this awareness and this commitment, then surely I can reorient myself, you know, and take courage from them and be reminded by their example. And I think, particularly for me, when reading the Bible around issues of identity, it helps me a lot to do that thing where you’re reading, looking to see what it’s speaking about, about God. And then, I mean, because the idea that the transcendent God of the universe has sought out relationship with His church and with me as a person, we can’t hear that too much.

Newbell: No. I think of the Psalms. I guess as she was talking I was thinking Psalm 103, is it ,”Forget not his benefits?”

All: Yeah.

Newbell: And then Psalm 8, that He would create the universe and what is man that you be remindful of him. It is, it’s remarkable.

Pollock Michel: Yeah, it’s remarkable.

Newbell: It’s absolutely remarkable to think that the God of the universe would be mindful of us. And I really appreciate just reminding us of how important testimonies are. That we’re sharing and being open and honest about where we are so that we can benefit from how other people are remembering who they are in Christ Jesus, and how they’re fighting that faith. It’s a fight, it’s a fight to remember.

Pollock Michel: It is, and I think we have to constantly be attuned to the sources that would tell us otherwise, right? So it’s not just that I have to, you know, root myself in the truth, but I also have to be really cautious about, you know, where, you know, what am I taking in that’s telling me lies? You know, and maybe it could be, you know, the media that I consume, or it could be, you know, certain relationships.

Newbell: Social media.

Pollock Michel: Yeah, exactly. You know, that scroll through Facebook that you think is, you know, totally benign. You know, there are a lot of times that we engage in things and we don’t even realize. I’m actually just…I’m imperiling my own, you know, spiritual state that I not only need to, you know, take in the right things, but I need to kind of buffer myself against things that would tell me that I’m only worth something as long as I’m beautiful, and thin and, you know, accomplished and, you know, whatever.

Wilkin: I think we have to be astute analysts of our anxieties. We have to be asking, you know, there are legitimate things to worry about in life that you have to turn over to the Lord on a regular basis. And then there are those things that we get wrapped around the axle about that are coming from somewhere that’s really not even rational, especially as a Christ follower. And the things that I give the most emotional energy to are often coming from a misplaced identity issue. And Jeff is always really good about helping me reframe things. He’ll say, “What’s your worst case scenario here?” And as soon as I get to that question, I began to realize, oh, right, because I’ve invested a lot of my sense of self in this to a point that I’ve blown it way out of proportion. I thought way too highly of my involvement in it, or I’ve been way too hard on my shortcomings in this. So…

Newbell: No, that’s really good. Jeff, your husband is so helpful. And Thern, my husband, does the same thing. He… “Why are you thinking about this still? What’s going on there?”

Wilkin: I wanna go, “Can’t you just say can I pray for you?”

Newbell: But it’s so helpful.

Wilkin: Yeah, I need it. Yeah, I need it.

Newbell: Close personal relationships like a spouse, or a best friend, or someone who knows you well…

Wilkin: Someone you trust.

Newbell: …someone you trust, who can speak into your life. My pastor has said to me several times, “What can anyone take from you? What can anyone take from you that God hasn’t already ordained?” It’s an encouraging. It’s refreshing.

Pollock Michel: Right. Exactly.

Newbell: Yeah. And I can trust then and I don’t have to fear, is my identity and my work, or is my identity in whatever it is that I’m afraid is gonna be taken away. So there are so many ways that the Lord uses people to comfort, encourage, and redirect our thoughts.

God’s Word makes our identity pretty clear: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). In spite of this clarity that believers are chosen children of God, we can spend a lot of time obsessing about what other people think of us.

That’s because we are a forgetful people. “The rhythm of the Bible is ‘remember, remember, remember'” Jen Wilkin says, “because we need to be reminded.” Reminding ourselves that our identity in Christ is more important than what anyone thinks of us is something we have to do over and over. And there are practices—spiritual disciplines—that can help us do that. Wilkin, Trillia Newbell, and Jen Pollock Michel—contributors to the book Identity Theftsat down to talk about what spiritual disciplines help them stay anchored in Christ.

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast or watch it here.