This past weekend, I spoke to a group of about 100 middle school girls on identity.
To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I had never done something like this before, but I knew God would want me to forge ahead and embrace the opportunity. He's pretty sweet to let me practice sharing my story and sharing the Word with a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds.
The talk I gave was just as much for me as it was for the girls. I needed to hear the truth about my identity and who I am. That's a message I think we'll all need to hear regardless of our age or how long we've been Christians.
When I was first asked to speak a few weeks ago, I started digging into the Bible, trying to discern what passage I would point the girls to. I wanted to give them new perspective or a fresh Bible story. I wanted to deliver them this major truth in a way like they'd never heard before. But after a week of that, I realized I was getting way too wrapped up in how they would perceive my words and how "good" of a Bible teacher I'd be.
Ironic given my story and my identity struggle relates so much to the idea of being "good enough."
A few days prior to the retreat, it dawned on me that God had given me the words to share all along. I've been memorizing Ephesians 1 and 2 with my women's discipleship group this year. Ephesians 2 seemed like the perfect place to point these young girls as they learn who they are.
I talked for 35 minutes, so I won't share all that with you. But I've included an excerpt of my session below. I hope it's encouraging for you and reminds you the truth of who God says you are!
I saw myself as Maggie the responsible oldest daughter, the good student, the reliable friend. That’s how I saw my identity. That's how I defined myself.
Yet I had also wrapped up my identity with how I looked, with what I ate, with how much I exercised, with how everyone around me perceived me.
I felt like I was on this hamster wheel, continually trying to be good enough.
It took Jesus interjecting Himself into my life, fully revealing Himself to Me and me being receptive to Him, for my life to really change. I can tell you today, I am alive because of God’s continued hand of grace and protection on me.
Because I didn’t save myself. Jesus is the one who saved me.
While I had prayed as a kid, and I always believed in God, I had never accepted Jesus in my heart. I thought being a Christian was going to church every week, praying before bed, and obeying the rules. I assumed if I lived “good enough,” I’d go to heaven when I died. I didn’t realize that I could never be “good enough” because only Christ is perfect.
But He loves me and you anyway, and He wants us to live a life for Him.
God took my struggle with an eating disorder, he took my fears and my anxiety, and he took my moving to New York City (something I did because it was my own plan) to in fact lead me to Himself. He used all these parts of my life to show me my need for Him. He was writing the story the entire time. And when I was 23 years old, my eyes were finally opened to it.
I finally understood what it meant to live my life for Christ. I surrendered to Him, and I didn’t want to ever turn back.
After repenting and beginning a true, intimate relationship with Jesus, things started to truly change for the better. Jesus saved me time and time again. He showed me where my identity came from, and it wasn’t from myself. It wasn’t from my looks, from my grades in school, or my job, or my relationships. Not from the number of likes or followers on Instagram.
My identity comes from Him and Him alone.
He tells us in Romans 10:9 that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and we believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.
Not we will be saved when we… pray X amount of prayers, or do X amount of good deeds, or memorize X amount of Scripture. He doesn’t say that we’ll be saved when we have it all together. He says we’ll be saved when we believe in Him and invite Him into our hearts!
When we do that, we take on a whole new identity.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17. It tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
The old self is gone; the new self remains!
God claims this over us, over ever single one of His believers. He sees us as holy, as saints.
We know from the very first book of the Bible, from Genesis, that we were created in His image. This is no small thing. We were created with specific traits to reflect the character of God.
Let that sink in for a second.
God created me, God created you, in His image.
He didn’t create us to live as lost, hopeless children. He created us to live full, whole, free lives rooted in Jesus Christ.
Because seasons change. All the things that the world says make us who we are—our looks, our relationships, our bank accounts, our social media profiles—all these things are going to change.
But God? He doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And when you are a Christian, His Spirit dwells within you.
Think about that for a moment. The Holy Spirit, of the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things—lives within you. That truth, which comes from 1 Corinthians 3:16, helps me whenever I’m tempted. It reminds me that my life is not my own. My life belongs to God.
God wants me to stand on holy ground and to see myself the way He sees me: a temple suitable for Him to dwell in. He wants to use me, just like He wants to use you.
For me, my eating disorder has served as a way to cope with some much deeper issues in my life—this idea that I somehow have to be "perfect." That I have to have it all together. When I was stressed or worried about not measuring up to my own crazy standards, I could at least control my food and my body. I could look perfect even if I didn't feel that way.
But the eating disorder always leads to a dead end. Finding my identity in anything other than Christ never satisfies.
There have still been hard days, even after accepting Christ. I have to constantly remind myself where my identity comes from and who I am in God’s eyes.
God keeps pruning us like a plant. He wants to make us more like Him. So as Christians, we aren’t guaranteed a happy life. There’s going to be hard stuff! But we are guaranteed a life of knowing and loving Jesus—and living with Him in eternity.
Take a look at Ephesians 2:1-10.
Phew. That is so good you guys.
Let’s dig into that a little deeper. God is telling us so much about our identity right there in Ephesians 2! Write this down and know that this is who you are.
We were children under wrath—meaning we were slaves to sin and our flesh.
We are made alive with the Messiah. And that’s even though we were dead! This is present tense. We are made alive.
We are saved by grace.
We are raised up and seated in the heavens with God.
We are a vessel for Him to display His immeasurable riches of grace through Christ Jesus.
We are saved by grace through faith.
We are His creation.
We are created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared ahead of time for us to walk in.
I want us to let those statements sink in for a few seconds. This is coming from the Word of God, from the Bible. Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, but the words come straight from the mouth of God. They are divine. We can trust them in their fullness and truth.
God is telling us that our old way of life, the way we were before knowing Him, was leading us to death—both physically and emotionally. We were letting the world tell us how to live, rather than following Him.
The Message version of the Bible puts it like this:
God has picked us up and seated us in the highest place in the heavens right next to Jesus. How amazing is that?
This is truth that I still have to remind myself on a daily basis. While God has done tremendous healing in my life, I know there’s still work He is doing and will continue to do in me. He’s breaking down the mistaken identities that I’ve built up through my eating disorder and through a bunch of things that don’t matter—things that aren’t going with me when I leave this world.
I believe God wants me and you and every single child of His to live like we are already seated with Christ in the heavens. To live like we are holy, to live our lives in the way He has called us to.
He offers us salvation and that wasn’t anything we did on our own. We are the branches, He is the vine, and He is in control. We are the players, and God is the coach. The Message version says, “God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to join in that work that He has for me. I want to live my life full, whole, and free in Christ Jesus.
Our identity is rooted in Him and Him alone. With proper care and attention, those roots will grow deep.Like a plant, when we’re rooted in Christ and live for Him, we will grow stronger and flourish into who He has designed us to be.
Being rooted in Christ means saying yes to finding our contentment in God. Rooted means saying no to comparison and selfishness. No to doubt. That’s something we have to tell ourselves over and over and over again.
My biggest desire for us as a generation of women is to stand firmly rooted in Christ and to walk with Him. I pray that we grow deeply in our love of Jesus. That we live from victory in Christ rather than for victory of our own.
I was saved by grace through faith, and Jesus offers the same for you.
I wouldn't be the woman I am today, and I certainly wouldn't have the relationship with Jesus that I have today, if I had not gone through trials. Having an eating disorder forced me to rely on Christ. Having that struggle has shown me how important it is to find my identity in Christ.
For me, the thing that keeps me from living in my true identity is an eating disorder. You might be thinking, I don’t struggle with that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
But maybe there’s something else in your life that is giving you a false identity. Maybe you compare your body, or your grades, or your Instagram likes, to other girls. Maybe you gossip. Maybe you hang out with the wrong crowd and do things you know you’re not supposed to do.
That’s our sin nature within us. That’s our natural inclination as broken human beings, and that’s something we have to deal with for our whole lives, even when we are Christians. As humans, we are constantly looking for other things to fulfill us and to take away a void. But only God can fill that void.
So I want you to know that even as I stand here today, I’m a Christian, I work for a church, and I might look like I have it all together, but I still struggle. I still have hangups. I still have to surrender the eating disorder, the anxiety, the perfectionism to God. I still have to read God’s Word every day and remind myself every day who He says I am.
We see in 2 Corinthians and Ephesians 2 and so many other places in the Bible about our identity. We are new creations because of Jesus.
We have been made anew in Christ.
He brings us from death to life.
You are created in His image. You are created for good works that God prepared just for you, to walk in.
You are no longer a slave to fear.
You are a child of God.
A precious daughter of the King.
And what I pray you will come to know is that isn’t just a Bible story—it is your story. These aren’t just words in a book. These are words God has spoken about you.
Jesus always calls you back to Himself, welcoming you with open arms.
Let’s live out that identity together.
If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuff, shoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life.
And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.
Truly, He makes beautiful things.