…were the words uttered by arguably one of the toughest women in the world. After a devastating loss the thought swirled inside Ronda, “I am nothing.”

As I laid in bed Tuesday evening replaying the interview I’d just watched – Ronda Rousey, bravely vulnerable before the world – I couldn’t help but think to myself, I don’t know one athlete who has not asked themselves the very same question at some point in their life… “What am I anymore if I am not this?” It’s not a matter of if, but of when injury, illness, breakdown, or time catches up with you, and everything you once were no longer is. And it’s scary. Especially for the professional. My heart ached with Ronda, because I’d been there… My thoughts wandered back to the fall of my senior year of college when I had to face a reality where I was no longer going to be what I had defined myself as since the age of five: an athlete. The part of me which had been filled (for as long as I could remember) with the identity of being an athlete was about to become terrifyingly vacant. What am I anymore if I am not this? And then as if the Lord was pushing my thoughts further, He gently asked me, do you think it is just athletes who ask themselves this question??

What about the singer who tears a vocal cord… “What am I anymore if I am not this?”

What about the pilot who loses their sight… “What am I anymore if I am not this?”

What about the soldier being discharged…. “What am I anymore if I am not this?”

What about the carpenter who crushes a hand…

The CEO who loses their company…

The speaker who suffers a stroke…

The friend who fails her companion…

The pastor who fails his congregation…

The husband who’s separated from his wife…

The mother who no longer has a child…

“What am I anymore if I am not this?”

Identity is incredibly important. It shapes everything about how we live out this life and has the potential to make or break the few years we’re granted to spend on this beautiful planet. Every action is based upon the very belief about who and what we are. The problem is we are prone to find our identity in, to define ourselves by, things that are temporary: athlete, singer, soldier; speaker, writer, artist; husband, wife, mother; teacher, leader, pastor… all temporary positions we hold during our years here on earth. When those positions become our definition, our foundation, we always run the risk of our identity being swept out from underneath us in a moment’s time, leaving us hopeless and grasping.

“Literally sitting there thinking about killing myself in that exact second. I’m nothing. What do I even do anymore (hopeless)? I looked up and saw my man Travis and thought, I need to have his babies, I need to stay alive (grasping).” -Ronda Rousey

Travis. Babies. Motherhood. <— New identities.

In the months following my fading athletic identity I looked at all the possible new identities awaiting me, and for a moment got excited: coach, girlfriend, grad student, business owner, wife, mother. Yet, something inside told me that these too wouldn’t fulfill. I looked closely and saw that each of those positions could also be lost in the blink of an eye. They’re temporary.

But what if our identity was never meant to be found in the temporary, but the eternal?

I saw a glimmer of hope flash across Ronda’s face as she spoke about her possible purpose; “Maybe winning all the time isn’t what’s best for everybody, maybe my role is to be an example of picking yourself up off the floor…” Yet, while it beckons towards eternity, is not eternal in and of itself. There will come a day, if we are honest with ourselves, when we will not be able to pick ourselves up off the floor, no matter how badly we desire to. We are not as in control as we once thought we were. And it’s moments like these, where we are knocked to the floor, head spinning out of control, that God graciously says, “child look to Me. I am in control when you are not. I am consistent when you fail. I will pick you up off the floor when you are too weak to do so yourself.”

And it’s there we find our true identity. In the One who existed before time began. In the One who created us in His image. In the One who sees our weakness when we are blind to it. The One who doesn’t ever say, “you are not enough” but only says, “you are enough IN ME.” It’s a battle in my journey with God to continually find my identity in Him. So easily I slip back into the temporary identities I hold, most specifically the title He first taught me to let go of: athlete. But when I remember my eternal identity being bought with the blood of Christ it helps me to walk through the ebbs and flows of my temporary identities.

Towards the end of the interview Ronda said something that struck me. She said, “All the best things come from the worst things.” And I believe with all my heart that this is true. It’s one of the worst things to find out what you once believed to be the core of who you are can be shattered into a million pieces. For Ronda it left her ready to take her own life. But I believe with all my heart that God, in His grace, let’s us experience the worst (our failing self) so that we desire the best (His perfect self). The question then becomes, will we surrender our identity in that moment so that He can give us a new eternal one??