A Journey to Identity, Belonging, and Purpose

Be God's

Two little words scrawled in bold letters before his name served as Christian singer Rich Mullins’ autograph, and now grace his tombstone: “Be God’s.” That simple statement served as both a powerful testament to his own identity and a compelling invitation to the recipient.

Rich Mullins

For years Rich had struggled with his identity and with who God made him to be – a musician rather than an athlete or a natural farmer like his dad, who struggled to understand Rich and to adequately show him love and affirmation. At one of his concerts, Rich said,

“When I was young, I was angry and I was kind of going, ‘God, why am I such a freak? Why couldn’t I have been a good basketball player? I wanted to be a jock or something. Instead I’m a musician. I feel like such a sissy all the time. Why couldn’t I be just like a regular guy?’ The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, you know, sometimes God has things in mind for us that we can’t even imagine. And I think that maybe it was good for me to grow up being picked on a little bit, because then I realized what it meant to be kinda the underdog. And then to have someone who is not an underdog, someone like God, say, ‘Hey, I want you to be with Me,’ then you kinda go, ‘Wow!’ And so maybe for that reason, grace is more important to me than people who have been able to be more self-sufficient.”

 Mullins’ years on earth were filled with failure and success, depression and joy, confusion and clarity. Sound familiar? I imagine if you’re anything like me or most of the people I know – and are honest about it – you can identify.

The difference between Rich and most of us was that he didn’t pretend to be anything other than a flawed human being in much need of – and gratefully saved by – God’s amazing grace. As Brennan Manning  shared in the forward of James Bryan Smith’s biography of Mullins,  An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, his first thoughts when he met Rich were, “This man knows the real Jesus. Only someone who has experienced the forgiveness and mercy of the redeeming Christ could dare to be so open about his brokenness.”

 Rich knew he was not a worthy man. Yet he knew God loved him anyway. And he took every opportunity to make sure others knew God loved them, too:

“God notices you. The fact is he can’t take his eyes off of you. However badly you think of yourself, God is crazy about you. God is in love with you. Some of us even fear that someday we’ll do something so bad that he won’t notice us anymore. Well, let me tell you, God loves you completely. And he knew us at our worst before he ever began to love us at all. And in the love of God there are no degrees, there is only love.”

 Although Mullins fell in love at least once, he never married. Accounts vary regarding his love life, but we do know that in one interview when asked about a woman he’d been engaged to, he said this:

“I have no interest in anybody else and she is married to someone else, so that’s the way it goes, and I don’t mind that. Right now I cannot imagine that life could be happier married than it is single, so I’m not in a panic about getting married. And I think, you know, maybe God wanted me to be celibate and the way that he accomplished that was to break my heart. So, that’s the way it goes.”

 He also said about his broken engagement,

“I wrote [Damascus Road] right after my ex-fiancé called off our engagement, and I just sort of did it as an act of obedience…. I decided to just thank God. It was sort of a writing exercise. But by the time I was over, what I realized was once again so often we think how our life is gonna go and what the Lord owes us and how it’s supposed to be. And sometimes God has better things in mind or something different in mind for us than what we have in mind for ourselves.”

 Another time he spoke of the freedoms he had as a single man, especially one who lived the nomadic life of a Christian singer. Some biographical accounts, including the movie of his life, Ragamuffin, indicate that his girlfriend broke up with him because of his life on the road. But it was the life God had called him to and he knew he couldn’t leave it – for a woman’s love, or anything else.

Rich could have been bitter at God, but he wasn’t. Another quote helps us understand why:

“God doesn’t have to be good to anybody. He doesn’t owe us the breath we breathe. I figure if God has given us salvation, that’s way more than we deserve, and I won’t judge Him for not giving me something else.”

Rich’s trust in His Heavenly Father for choosing his life’s experiences for a specific purpose and reason is inspiring. He identified with the poor and the broken. In one of his last concerts he observed,

“I wonder if one of the reasons God liked Abraham was because Sarah was barren and Abraham was this close to extinction when God called him. God seems to have a very special place in His heart for the small and weak, and for the oppressed and poor of the world.”

Later in the same concert he said,

“Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you’ve done it to me.’ And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers, but they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”

 These weren’t just words to Rich. Although he was a successful Christian musician he had such a heart for the children on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, that he went back to school and graduated with a B.A. in Music Education in 1995, and moved there to teach them music. The profits from his tours and album sales were handled by his accountant who gave Rich only the amount of an average working person’s salary to live on, and gave the rest away to charities, per Rich’s instructions. He didn’t want to know how much money he was making or how much he was worth.

Rich Mullins died in an auto accident in 1997 at the age of 41, but his legacy lives on. While his physical voice was silenced, his words and message were not. Perhaps because of his death his words now carry more weight to those of us still walking this earthly journey. Mullins was certainly a “purposeful single” –not one who focused on his singleness or even specifically on being purposeful – but rather on being God’s – and oh how God used this flawed man who gave himself back to Him!

“God will never give up on you. He will never stop loving you.
That love is a reality no matter what you do or don’t do.
God does not call us to be angels;
He calls us to be His, and to be who we are in Him.”
~Rich Mullins


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Here Am I. Send Me.

Here am I with all my inadequacies and hindrances

“Here Am I. Send Me.”

These are the words Isaiah responded with to the Lord when He asked, “Who should I send? Who will go for Us?” I believe the willingness evidenced in those two short sentences is the same willingness God desires for the heart of every Follower of Jesus. He has a purpose and plan for each of us to fulfill – a work for us to do as long as we have breath.

Here Am I

Are we ready to say these words to God? We often feel our present circumstances hinder our being available for the Lord’s assignments, and we feel inadequate, or vulnerable. We have many “buts,” “if onlys,” and “I will whens” that we respond to God with, rather than Isaiah’s simple, “Here am I”:

But I am single. I can’t do that alone!”

If only I had my house paid off, then I’d be free to do that.”

I will when my children are grown – it’s impossible as a single parent!”

If God is asking something of us, though, can we not trust He already knows all these hindrances? He knows how inadequate we might fell as a single, how weighed down by financial worries, and how tied down by our responsibilities. And yet He asks us anyway. He asks because He already knows how He is going to provide for those concerns that are holding us back.

Hindrances

In her study on Thessalonians, Children of the Day, Beth Moore writes of the possibilities that result when we remove the hindrance from a difficulty. She cites several examples:

Heartbreak – hindrance = depth

Singleness – hindrance = gospel globetrotter

Childlessness – hindrance = father/mother of many

Disappointment – hindrance = faith

Devastation – hindrance = trust

My pain – hindrance = my passion

And the one that sums up all the possible hindrances we may experience:

My life – all hindrances = my God-ordained destiny.

Here am I with all my inadequacies and hindrances

These results are from a human’s limited perspective of what can happen when a hindrance is removed from a difficulty. Can you imagine what God, in all His sovereignty, is able to do when we allow Him to remove the hindrances from our lives? It is exciting to contemplate all that He might accomplish through us if we are willing to ignore the seeming obstacles and say to the Lord, “Here am I, with all these hindrances and inadequacies, but I am willing to do whatever You ask of me, and I acknowledge that You know what to do with these seeming impossibilities.”

That’s all He asks us of us: willingness. He doesn’t ask us to solve the hindrance or to figure out how to remove them. He’ll take care of all that. The very first step is for us to simply say, “Here am I.”

Send Me

In Isaiah’s case, the sending involved speaking God’s message to a group of people who really didn’t want to hear that message. It most certainly removed Isaiah from his secure comfort zone. And yet he still told God, “Send me.” Most new experiences require us to be willing to step outside of what is familiar and comfortable, and move into something unfamiliar and unknown, which is certainly not conducive to feeling comfortable and secure. But we can trust that God is our security and choose to take that step anyway.

I don’t know what God may be asking of you, but I know He is asking something of each one of us. He has a purpose, plan, and mission for our lives. As long as we are here, God has work for us to do.

I am privileged to be writing a book on my father’s life, and this message was given to him when he was just a young man of 19. At the time the man he was working for had just lost his life to cancer, leaving behind a widow and four young children. My father responded in anger to God, demanding of Him, “Why did you take Raymond? Why didn’t you take me instead?”

Here am I Lord - Send me

And God responded just as clearly to him as if He had been standing in human form in front of him, “Raymond’s work was finished, but I still have work for you to do.”

Not long after that God sent my father halfway around the world to Nepal, and that was the first of many ministry assignments God has had for him in his over eighty years of life so far. It has been a life of many sacrifices, but also one of many blessings. Today, my father’s message to young and old alike is that if they are alive, God has work for them to do. That message is not just textbook theory for him, it is the story of his life.

What is God asking of you? It may be as “simple” as writing a blog post from your heart, as my niece did last week; or going halfway around the world, as my father did many years ago. Whatever it is – can you trust Him to take care of all your hesitancies, all your insecurities, and all the hindrances? I have no doubt there are many blessings awaiting your obedience to His call if you do!

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You Are Loved!

You are loved

On this day that celebrates love and that can sometimes feel like a judgment to those without a romantic partner, I want to remind you that you are loved without measure by the One who created you and died for you. He designed you to be who you are, and no matter if there are people who reject who you are, God has a purpose and plan for you just as you are!

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More Than Enough

You are more than enough for me Lord

“You are more than enough
You are here
You are love
You are hope
You are grace
You’re all I have
You’re everything.”
*

I’d heard them so many times before, but these words practically reached out of my phone and grabbed me as I drove down the road. I sang along, and as the words rang in my head over and over again, I felt the sting of conviction deep inside.

Do I actually believe that He’s more than enough for me? I say I do, but how is Christ enough for me if I’m always searching for fulfillment? How is He enough for me when I’m constantly grasping for things that make me feel secure? How is He enough for me when I say, “I’m just waiting until ‘XYZ’ happens, then I’ll be happy”?

The answer is simple: He is more than enough for me, but I am not accepting His sufficiency. He longs for me to accept it, but He won’t force me to. I need to come to the place of absolute surrender, to the point of throwing out the idols lurking in my heart. Then, in the quiet, empty space they leave behind, I can declare, “You are more than enough for me, Lord.”

What next Lord

It’s a day by day – no, make that moment by moment – choice. It’s a choice that changes how I live. It’s an incredibly liberating choice!

When I stood with diploma in hand two years ago, I never expected to be here, working a boring job. This wasn’t in my wildest dreams or plans. It doesn’t line up with the calling I feel God has placed on my life… yet every time I ask Him for direction, the answer is clear: “I want you right where you are.” Some days I’m okay with it, but most days I’m left feeling confused and frustrated.

When I believe His supreme sufficiency covers me as His child, I am free to be who God created me to be, and therefore I am able to be most effective, even if I’m not where I want to be. When I live out this belief, my fulfillment and security come from Him, and the other things don’t matter quite as much.

In that security, I am able to say:

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need human approval for what I do.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need to be living my lifelong dream.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need a spouse.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t have to absolutely love my life right now.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need perfect health.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need a promotion at work.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need idealistic friendships.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t need financial security.

You are more than enough for me. I don’t even need my car, my job, my family, or my home.

You are more than enough.

These are empowering words, words that bring life and hope.

I don’t know what your journey looks like or what obstacles you’re facing right now, but I’m pretty sure that whoever and wherever you are, you feel insufficient for some task before you. I just want to encourage you and remind you these words are true for you too, right here, right now. Jesus is more than enough for whatever is in front of you.

* “Here’s My Heart, Lord” by Jason Ingram, Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio

Alyssa Reitz is a single young woman currently living and working in Virginia. Her family, heart-to-heart conversations, coffee, bright colors, babies, and laughter never fail to bring joy to her heart.

 

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