Finding Myself in the Loss of Identity

That title sounds ridiculously heady, but stay with me for a moment. I promise it’s worth it. Yesterday was Veteran’s Day — a day that has long held high value for me. I grew up the child of an Air Force officer, and had the privilege of living on base during some of his career. My early childhood years were spent in military-friendly towns surrounded by people who had been transplanted there from literally all over the world. Drawn together by the common purpose of serving, our home was often filled with families and single airmen and women as we built a community together. My definition of “family” extended to people who didn’t share my same DNA, but I sincerely couldn’t imagine doing life without them.

I grew up during the Gulf War where welcome home ceremonies on the flight line, visits from the President, and jet noise were all very much a part of my collective memories and experiences. I knew every word to “God Bless the USA,” Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” record played every Independence Day, and our flag was displayed proudly year round.

In college, I met and married my husband, and after 3 years of marriage, he joined the Army when our first child was only two months old. I was launched into the world of the military spouse and I couldn’t have been prouder. I wore my “Army Wife” sweatshirt, cried my good-bye tears at deployment departures, and held down the fort in my own right as I raised our children in a very real “single-parent” status while my husband spent his time deployed and in specialized training operations where he sacrificed in service to our country.

Let me pause here and say if you serve in our military or serve as a member of a military family, I am so grateful for you. For the sacrifice on both sides, and for the unnoticed moments that most people would never even think of when it comes to the military. You are seen, and I’m so thankful for your participation in a greater legacy for freedom.

I identified deeply with the role of military spouse and each patriotic day that passed resonated with me on a guttural level. My pride was high, and the brotherhood/sisterhood of the military was something that couldn’t be adequately explained many times to those who hadn’t lived it.

Fast forward a decade, and my marriage had fallen apart. Years of deployments, training, death of friends in service, a very real battle with PTSD (on both our parts) among many other things… my reality was rocked and life as I knew it was over. My husband and I separated and went through the painful process of divorce. I remember sobbing the first year of our separation, as it was the week of Veteran’s Day and the wave of reality hit at all that was being lost.

I was no longer a wife. I was no longer a two-parent household. And, I was no longer a military spouse. Divorce is a beast. It cuts to the core. No one ever enters marriage thinking, “I’ll do this for a little while, and it will be good some years and bad others, and then we will go our separate ways.” Are you kidding me?! No one thinks that. We get married for the fairy tale ending — the promise of forever. And when it all falls apart, there’s a million pieces left to pick up and the excruciating healing process to walk through.

I’ve struggled many days for the last three years with that loss of identity in many ways. It was awakening to see just how much clout I gave those titles I held. What happens when we lose our identities in the midst of tragedy or simply the changing seasons of life?

Here’s what I’m learning in this season: I am more than a man-made title or situational description. My identity must go deeper than a role I play in this thing called life. It is so much more than that. Because my purpose is rooted in something so much bigger than descriptions based only on my situation of have or have-nots.

I am chosen.
I am worthy.
I am seen.
I am loved.
I am bought with a price.

My identity is based in who I am journeying to become on a daily basis because of my relationship with Jesus and the life-giving people placed in my path on this course of healing. So, if you find yourself in a season where titles have been stripped from your identity… know you aren’t alone. But, please also know that our identities are not the sum of our losses OR our achievements. We were made for so much more, and I can’t wait to continue to walk in the freeing knowledge that I am allowed to be who I was made to be, regardless of the labels I wear.

Will you walk with me?


One Comment

  1. Marcia

    Oh how I love this and needed to hear it! Thank you!

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