There's one Saturday I remember distinctly. I lost "rock, paper, scissors" to my older sister, which meant she got the fun job of careening around the lawn on the riding mower while I had to pull weeds and repatch the garden. Determined and a little chaffed, I put on my basketball knee pads and gloves and got to work. As I picked through the soil, I came across a bundle of weeds that looked incredibly similar to the other plants. I left it alone and continued to crawl down the flowerbed. Slowly, as everything began to look more clean and bright and the flowerbed took shape, I noticed that this one plant was a different color than all the plants around it. It finally struck me: that plant doesn't belong here! It's a giant weed!
I went to uproot it, but the roots were deep, telling me that it had been growing there for a while––disguising itself as something innocent while choking out the other plants that were trying to blossom. What looked right on the surface was causing devastating destruction beneath the soil. I dug a hole around the weed, grabbed ahold of the base, yanked as hard as I could, and THWOCK!––Down I went, dirt and leaves flying, a giant crater in the flowerbed.
That weed, which resembled an average plant, was actually incredibly difficult to dig up, left a damaged flowerbed behind, and when I fell, it hurt! Unfortunately, the same can be true of us when we fall to pride in our gifts or completely misplace our identity. Sometimes our identity is so deeply rooted in the wrong things we forget what the right thing is.
I misplaced my identity as a worship leader for many years, and I didn't even know it. I thought I was doing great things, using my gifts within the church to bring more glory to the Lord, and doing a great job of stewarding what He gave me. But just like that weed that so closely resembled a plant, before long, I couldn't distinguish if my identity was in my gifts or the Gift-giver.
I share the story about the yard work and the deceptive weed because that was one of the first memories the Lord brought to my mind when I found out I wouldn't be able to sing for two years. After college, I pursued a full-time worship position at a large church in Oklahoma. This church ignited my love for leading worship and provided me with authentic community for the first time. When the opportunity to work there presented itself, of course, I went for it!
A couple of weeks before my final interview, I realized I could no longer "power through" some of the vocal issues I had been having. When I went to the doctor, he confirmed my biggest fear: vocal nodules. They were large and in charge, ruining what I thought was the best plan for my life. Though completely devastated (you can ask my mom, she cried with me for many hours), I knew God was up to something. I begged for clarity as I prayed through tears and banged on my steering wheel.
I prayed and journaled, "God, why would you take my voice away when I'm just trying to use it for You? Am I being punished? I thought this was the door you were opening! I can't sing at church, in my car, when I do dishes, nothing! This isn't just my dream job; I'm losing my creative outlet and my greatest love." And there it was. My voice and my role had become "my greatest love" instead of God. As I continued weeping, it was now for a whole different reason.
How could I have drifted this far without even knowing it? As God reminded me of the story of the yard work, I felt comforted knowing that though He had ripped out the weed (my misplaced identity in my voice), He made room to plant what He intended to be there in the first place. He made room to replant the correct seeds. He made room for me to see the damage the weed had done, but that He wasn't going to leave me that way.
My question for you is this: what's going on below the surface? Has what seems like a good thing mistakenly become your identity? I share these stories to encourage and challenge you to take an inventory. If your voice was gone tomorrow––if the strength in your hand to play your instrument was gone, how would you respond? Is your identity truly in Christ? Or is it in the gifts and the role he has given you? Before you brush this off and think, "of course my identity is in Christ," pray Psalm 139:23-24 with me:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Be encouraged; if you find yourself falling to pride or misplacing your identity, don't forget that even as a leader, you're still a human. Confess, being confident that he is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). Walk in freedom with no condemnation (Romans 8:1), and allow God's compassion to overwhelm you, being comforted that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Your work here is not done yet (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), so brush off the dirt, pull your knee pads back up, choose the right seeds, and replant the garden that produces the most beautiful fruit.