Doc thinks I'm weird, but I honestly loved high school. Yes, there was the normal drama, but I had great friends, was at the top of my high school class academically, and was involved with a lot of extra-curricular activities. So I had big plans going into my senior year of high school.
In July, I'd just started dating a guy who I knew would make my friends green with envy. We had a date, and I was going to drive over to his place which was about 30 minutes from my house. On my way over, I remember looking at a sign and thinking, “No, that’s not the right exit.”
And that was the last thing I remember. According to the accident report, the impact of the collision drove my car across 2 lanes of traffic, over the medium, and across 2 lanes of oncoming traffic. My car then went airborne, landing in a parking lot of a local business. After being rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital, the doctors there determined that they couldn’t handle the extent of my injuries and I was life-flighted to another hospital. (Yeah, my kids are still ticked that I was completely unconscious during my one ride in a helicopter.)
And so I began my senior year with a new identity. The boyfriend I thought was so amazing had dumped me almost immediately after he saw my scars -- and I still had multiple reconstructive surgeries in front of me. A head injury and heavy medication left me unable to think clearly so my academics were in jeopardy. My left arm was in a brace. I walked with a limp. All of the things that had given me confidence – my academics, my looks, my popularity and social life, even my ability to move freely –were gone. The labels I had been given – the labels I used to identify myself – had evaporated in a split second.
Perhaps some of you may struggle with that same illusion. Like I did – like we all do at times – you may base your identity and value on transient characteristics or possessions. You look in the mirror and feel important because you are a good student. Or you have a great car. Or you are pretty. Or you are married. Or you have a calling you love. Or you have a good job. Or your children are pretty or smart or athletic.
A child is taught in church the simple truth – “I am a child of God and He has sent me here.” Later, we are taught that: “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.”
Yes, we may know the right words to say. But in our day-to-day lives, have we allowed those words to remain stuck on our lips and in our brains, without letting that knowledge gain root in our hearts? Do we really understand what it means to be a child of God, that simple but profound identity given to us by our Heavenly Father?
This understanding is essential. Sheri Dew put it this way in her book, No Doubt About It:
We will never be happy or feel peace; we will never deal well with life’s ambiguities; we will never live up to who we are as women of God until we overcome our mortal identity crisis by understanding who we are, who we have always been, and who we may become.
Heavenly Father wants us to know who we are. He wants us to see through the transient labels that society has given us -- and sometimes we have given ourselves. He wants us to recognize our eternal identity as His spirit daughters, loved with a perfect and infinite love.
Please don't think I'm perfect at this -- I too place labels on myself and all too readily accept the labels others place upon me. Which is why this post came to be. And so I am trying to ask myself: What labels -- good or bad -- have I accepted? How have those labels kept me from remembering who I really am? How could removing one or two of those labels help me to feel more confident in myself?
P.S. Just a reminder -- head over to the General Conference Book Club at Diapers and Divinity. This week, Stephanie is highlighting Elder Holland's talk, "An Ensign to the Nations." To participate, just read or listen to the talk and write a comment -- oh! and don't forget to read everybody else's comments as well. I'm looking forward to reading and thinking about the talk over the next few days -- I hope you will too!