I forced a smile, waved and walked away, leaving him sitting nervously on his soccer ball. Tears pooled in my eyes as I drove away. I would be back in three hours to get him and his brother. It wasn’t torture, it was a soccer camp a mile away that they were excited to attend; however, leaving him there, forcing him to deal with his insecurity and fear, felt like torture to me.
He loved soccer, as he still does. In our home and on our cul-de-sac he plays with the confidence of a mini Messi; however, every time he is forced out of controlled and comfortable situations, he gets hit with a crippling wave of insecurity and fear. The only way to encourage his growth toward maturity on and off the field is to intentionally and lovingly stretch him from incubation to integration.
I see this pattern played out over and over in the lives of my children. In the incubation of controlled and comfortable situations and circumstances, they grow in confidence in their identity. They are fully themselves, fully assured of who they are and whose they are.
Out of this healthy identity, they are ready to stretch the circle of their world a little larger. Either by a surge of courage or a nudge from a trusted one, they step out into the unknown, be it preschool, a new friendship, a new sport or team, a new church. Their identity, once sure and secure, becomes shaken. You can see it in their little face and demeanor as they wrestle. Inevitably, they run back to home base for reassurance and interpretation.
Expand, retreat, expand, retreat, the pattern continues, widening the circles of their world with each iteration. This is how they (and we) move from healthy identity in incubation to an integrated identity.
The more I parent, the more I learn about how perfectly the Lord parents His children.
I am going to a conference next week, and I am terrified. On paper, I should be excited, as the trip provides much coveted time alone (even if it is on an airplane across the country), a change of scenery, a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues, all while hearing great speakers and being challenged in my walk with the Lord.
However, I find my soul trembling. I know myself well, and every time I move out another layer of the concentric circles that make up my world, my identity in Christ is shaken. In my home, following my routine and rhythms with the people who know me best, I am sure and confident in who I am and what God has called me to do. Incubated identity.
As soon as I enter a conference of thousands of women, the waves of insecurity hit and begin to erode my gospel identity. I feel lost in the shuffle, nondescript, small and unsure. Does what I do really matter? Does He really have good works prepared for me to walk into?
God, being a faithful and wise parent, will not leave well enough alone. He must move me from incubated identity to integrated identity. He will nudge me out of my comfort zone and into places of calculated risk. He must and will do so, not because He enjoys my discomfort, but rather because He longs to see me become mature in Him.
An integrated gospel identity enables a soul to be able to move out into unknown and uncontrolled circumstances in a confidence derived from Christ’s infinite adequacy. What child of God doesn’t long for such integration?
If we want to grow toward healthy maturity in Christ, we must be willing to leave our circles of comfort and confidence as the Spirit leads. Our insecurities will arise and our confidence will be shaken, and we will have to run back to our Eternal Parent, our home base. He will whisper truth to us, reassure us of His love and oversight and send us back out. Risk by risk, layer by layer, He will move us towards an integrated gospel identity.
Just like God doesn’t grow a tree from an acorn overnight, God chooses the slow, organic route in moving us from incubation to integration in our gospel identity. It will be a long process, one that will take the rest of our lives; yet, the prize of fullness in Christ and integrated maturity in Him is well worth the journey.
He may leave you on your soccer ball to wrestle, but He does so with tears in His eyes and confidence in His plan to bring you to fullness in Him.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness…For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. Colossians 6:6-7 & 9.