just call me Kristen.

I don’t really have some pivotal moment in time where a huge transformation takes place. Don’t get me wrong, I have certainly had some life changing moments of revelation along my journey; but there isn’t just one point in time where I can say “and so it began”. It’s been a process, one heck of a process.

So let me start with the names. Over my lifetime I have had a slew of names assigned to me as I am sure you have too. As a little girl who was a bit tom-boyish and lacked grace I earned the nick name bruiser. As I got a little older and performed really well in school, they called me smart. When I spent my childhood struggling with my weight, I got called fat. But as I girl who was raised in church, I believed I was who God said I was. So for a long time I tried to hold on to the identity I had as a child of the King.

I’m not sure when things started to shift. I’m not sure when I went from the smart girl who goes to church to some wild child but it happened. When I was a teenager my life began to spiral out of control. I dropped out of high school and that’s when I became familiar with my identity of “drop-out” and “uneducated”. I also found myself trapped in an abusive relationship. With that came a whole new list of names. Bitch, unlovable, slut, ugly and a list of other words assigned to me in attempts to control and manipulate me. People who knew of the abusive often called me victim. It was during the relationship when I began to use drugs and drink heavily. My friends and I partied a lot. I even got dubbed the name “Kmart” a nickname derived from my first and last name, Kristen Martin. Later “Kmart” became synonymous with my wild side. Kmart is the side of me that forgets her responsibilities, drinks entirely too much, succumbs to her anger and “just wants to have fun”. People in my life who didn’t agree with my lifestyle, alcohol and drug consumption called me addict.

There were times throughout the six years I was with my son’s father I wanted things to change. I so desperately wanted to hold on to the name I knew as a child. A king’s daughter. I still very much believed in God but I had no connection. I started going back to church trying to rekindle my relationship with Him. But I no longer knew that girl. I reserved my conversations with God for moments of despair. When my pleas seemed unheard I called myself hurt. I called myself angry. I called myself abandoned.

Into adult hood I found myself with one of the most important names I’ll ever have: Mom. I loved my son to my very core and with an intensity I was unaware a person was capable of feeling. It was that love that drove me to finally break ties with his father; I took all the necessary steps to free myself from the abuse. But even my love for my son didn’t deter me from my party ways. I did what thought I was supposed to do. I fed him, bathed him, cuddled him and talked to him. I took care of my son. But the minute he was asleep I drank. Often I would leave him home with my parents so I could go out. “Kmart” wanted to have a little fun. Time and time again I let my love for alcohol put me in dangerous situations. I never once considered what would happen to my son if I weren’t here. Some people called me unfit.

My out of control lifestyle caused even more pain than the wounds I was attempting to hide. Over the years I landed in a few different therapist’s and psychiatrist offices. They picked apart my life searching for answers to explain my emotions and my behavior. More names came like depressed, bipolar and eventually it was settled on calling me a girl borderline personality disorder.

People still try to downplay the power of labels. They think they are just someone’s opinion, just words. But too often they become more than that. They become names, a part of your identity. They weren’t only things other people called me but they were what I called myself. And when you call yourself addict, bitch, ugly and unlovable you behave like an ugly bitchy unlovable addict. Finally I had found the most accurate name to ever call myself: broken.

Over time, I decided to give my life back to God. It wasn’t instantaneous. I can in fact remember a specific moment when I truly decided things would be different (that’s another post), but giving my life back to God took me a while. Every step closer I got to Him, a new name was thrown out at me. First it was saved. Then redeemed. Eventually recovered. Then further into my walk with Christ I was named things like destined and purposed.

Wow! What a far cry from what I used to be called. I’d been given a whole new identity. So I started calling myself those names too. I would read 2 Corinthian 5:17 over and over. I am new. New, another name, another part of who I am supposed to be. I would cling on to every empowering depiction of who God said I was. But the problem was that I didn’t always feel like those names fit me. For a while I was left in this limbo struggling to figure out which names really described me. I knew I was loved by God and I believed I was who He said. Then why did some days I still think like an addict or think like a person with borderline personality disorder? I am supposed to be this girl with a broken past and a testimony of redemption. But I drank all the time. I still struggled with lust. I still struggled with my anger. I still struggled with my self-worth. And the complete truth is that I still struggle.

Not that long ago I listened to an older sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick in his #DeathtoSelfie series. He studies Jacob’s journey in the book of Genesis. Furtick paints a beautiful picture of Jacob’s story. He points the part of  the story where he wrestles with God. After they wrestle God says to Him “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, [a]because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” God renamed Jacob, giving him a new identity. What is more interesting though is that throughout the rest of Genesis, he is still often called Jacob. So if God renamed him and gave him a new identity, why is he still called Jacob? If Israel is who he is than why does it matter who he was? Because God is the God of Jacob and Israel, your past and your present, your struggles and your victories. And every bit of that matters to the destiny God has given you.

What I have realized is that I can be both. In Christ I have been given a new identity. My desires changed, how I saw life around me change and therefore how I saw myself changed. I realized I don’t have to define my future by the horrible labels and names from my past. But they are still a part of who I am. Every single struggle I have ever had and every name that I clung onto plays a part in who I am in my walk with Christ. It matters to how and why I praise Him, love Him and choose to glorify Him. In my areas of weakness and struggle, I rely on Him for strength. Through it He is glorified.

So I no longer live in some limbo trying to figure out exactly who I am. I am Israel, but I am Jacob too. And as long as I seek growth in Him, that’s ok. Because, face it, life is full of pivotal moments with new battles and new victories. Life is full of seasons where your faith is stronger, your thoughts are purer and your actions righteous. But it is also has just as many seasons where you have no faith in anything around you, much less God, your mind is amuck with dangerous thoughts and you operate out of sadness or anger. I know it has been for me. So sometimes you can call me destined, sometimes you can call me changed, sometimes you can call me righteous. But sometimes, please just call me Kristen.

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