By Dana Yeakley

When our granddaughter, Emma, was two and a half I was spending the day with her and her sister, Miriam. A joyous spirited little girl, even at 2, Emma knew who she was!

That day as I was asking her to get ready for her nap I urged her by saying, “Okay, honey?” to which she responded loudly and with great emphasis, “Emma!” Not realizing what her intent was I repeated, “Okay, honey, time for nap” to which she stood before me, feet firmly planted and again with great determination stated, “Emma!” I then realized she was responding to my reference to her as, “honey.” Hiding my desire to burst out laughing I said…, “oh, of course, ‘Emma’ it is time for your nap.” At the correct usage of her name, Emma gladly romped to her room.

Like Emma, we have an identity. And, like Emma, it is up to us to regard that identity as supremely important and not up for ‘renaming.’ Our identity in Christ is profound. As we walk through life it is easy to forget who we are. It is easy to disregard our identity when someone treats us crudely or places expectations or demands upon us that are unwarranted.

For me, identity in Christ is best summed up in the statement, “I matter to Jesus.” This means I am constantly and intimately connected to Him. Having grown up in a very large family I often felt that I was treated as a mere member of a “herd” rather than an individual. It seemed I never had a say in the activities we pursued as a family. I was not considered in any decision making process. This developed in me a need for recognition and finding identity in friendships. Alongside these tendencies grew a willingness to forfeit the dignity and acceptance that Christ desired for me.

As I have walked with Jesus He has helped me to not only own that I belong to Him, am deeply loved and regarded by Him, but that He is my Good Master and Blessed Controller of all things. I have learned to make decisions in life based on the fact that “I matter to Jesus.” Surprisingly, this sometimes means I have turned down opportunities to “join” in with others in a variety of ‘goodly’ activities (even Christian leadership) that I know Christ does not want for me at the time.

Other times I have chosen to prioritize and pursue eternal activity (like daily quiet times) rather than heed the appeal of momentary distractions. As a young mom we had three children under five. Changing diapers with a positive demeanor became part of discipling my children. As I lived out of my identity in Christ He helped me to see that those moments were as crucial as the ones I spent one on one with any woman I was discipling! Contributing financially to the needs of others when I felt our funding was not so great was possible because of owning my identity in Him. Choices like these have never been easy but because I belong to Christ He has always brought joy, satisfaction and peace as I have done so trusting that I deeply matter to Him.

As mommy missionaries we can find our identities conflated within a myriad of roles from parenting to ministry. We can wrongly find our identity in our relationship to our spouse or friends. It is easy to dismiss the fact that these roles and relationships are temporary and shifting. The one aspect of our lives that will never change is the truth that we belong to Jesus; that we matter to Him. It says in Ephesians 2:10 (NIRV), “We are God’s creation. He created us to belong to Christ Jesus. Now we can do good works. Long ago God prepared these works for us to do.” (Note that good works follow the reality that we belong to Jesus!)

Even at the early age of two, Emma related an awareness that she matters! She demonstrated how to take a stand for herself when she felt disregarded. My prayer, of course, as her grandma, is that when Emma is a young woman she will transfer that unassuming self-awareness to a strong identity in Christ, trusting that He will continually care for and protect her as she resolutely follows Him! And when the dust settles, like Emma, we are to be immovable in our identity because we know Christ and are firmly established in belonging to Him.

Dana and Tom have been on staff with the Navs for 38 years and married for 44 years. They enjoy 8 grandchildren with the latest, Ezra Michael, born this past August. Recently, their oldest son Michael went to be with the Lord.  They were blessed to have Michael on earth for forty years. Though they have two remaining children: Amy and Stephen…they regard the spouses of their children, Joy, David and Hannah to be their children as well.  

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