by Sharla Fritz
When my kids were little I grabbed any opportunity to be alone. I loved being a mom, but sometimes I simply needed to be me—without a toddler hanging on my leg. One day when both kids were glued to the TV watching Sesame Street I saw my chance for two minutes alone in the bathroom. I snuck in and closed the door.
But my alone time didn’t last long. Twenty seconds later I heard a knock on the door. “Who’s there?” I called out, knowing full well it was the two-year-old.
A precious little voice replied, “It’s me—Cutie-pie!”
My little one had heard us call him by this nickname so often he thought it was his name! He identified himself as “Cutie-pie.”
Recently I thought of this story while reading the book of John. Four times in this book the apostle John identifies himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” When I first read that phrase and realized John was talking about himself I thought: How arrogant is that! How could he be so bold to flaunt his opinion that Jesus loved him more than the other disciples? And I wondered about the other eleven. Were they jealous of John? Did they think John was Jesus’ favorite?
But lately, I’ve become convinced that John’s bold statement was not made out of arrogance. He had simply heard Jesus’ words of love so often that he had internalized them. He based his identity in that love. And because Jesus’ love is perfect, all of the other disciples could have claimed the same identity. Yes, John and Jesus were especially close; John was part of Jesus’ inner circle. But Jesus’ love is not preferential—each of the other disciples could have grasped the title “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Realizing that fact made me think: What if I grabbed onto the truth of Jesus’ love for me so tightly that it became my identity? How would that change me?
I think if I simply rested in my label of “the disciple whom Jesus loved“ comparison, doubt, and the need for recognition would melt away.
I wouldn’t struggle to be better than others. Comparison would not be a constant companion. Weighing myself on the scale of popular opinion would not be a continuous pastime. Instead I could polish my gifts and applaud the efforts of others.
I wouldn’t question God’s plan for my life. Instead of doubting the route I’m on, I would recall that the Father’s love means He genuinely wants the best for me. Instead of checking the world’s GPS for a more favorable path, I would remember His indisputable wisdom means He is the only One who knows the best highway for me.
I wouldn’t feel the need to prove myself. Accomplishments would not validate my worth. And failure would not negate it. If I truly believed God’s words of love and allowed them to rewire my soul, I would learn to accept myself as His treasured daughter.
If I could truly pay attention to God’s eternal declaration, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV), my heart would be secure. If I let those words go down deep into my soul, my status as the beloved daughter of the King would drive out the need to be anything else.
John is not the only disciple Jesus loved. Each one of us can formulate our identities in Jesus’ unfailing, unshakeable, unending love.
Internalize God’s words of love. Define yourself by Christ’s passion for you.
And when asked to identify yourself simply reply, “I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of God’s Relentless Love: A Study of Hosea, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com