Kat Mills reflects on the importance of finding our identity in something other than what we do.

Wimbledon Blues

I am a big tennis fan. I love playing, watching, or talking about the game. Each year, around this time I get the Wimbledon blues. After all the hype and attention with two weeks' coverage and the highs and lows, controversies, triumphs and cruel blows, it's suddenly all over for another year and I'm left feeling bereft. My house suddenly feels very quiet without the gentle buzz of tennis and commentators and that memory-evoking theme tune.

Although I love the game and enjoy sport in general, I can struggle with how brutal it can be. Players can give it their all, putting every ounce of energy into a match and still come out on the losing end. One minute they are the nation's hero, and the next they have fallen from grace and have to face criticism and lingering questions of whether they can ever amount to something.

As someone whose mission in life is to be an encourager, I sometimes want to scream at the harsh and critical comments made by people watching the game. I believe in constructive criticism, but sadly and so often, it seems to be more of slamming, (pun intended), people into the ground.

I remember when I used to play and was in my club finals. I had served three aces in a row and everyone was cheering and saying how amazing I was. I then had an attack of the nerves and served three double faults. Everyone started yelling at me to serve better, lift my arm more and to get my game together, saying how bad my serve was! Pressure and criticism can be crippling.

The harsh reality in Wimbledon is that out of the 256 players who enter the singles tournament, only two will be crowned champions and walk away with what they train all year round to achieve.

I was struck watching Roger Federer win this year, that although a big part of his success is his amazing talent, incredible work ethic and strength of mind, it was clear that a vital part was also the incredible balance he has in his life. His family travel with him and he has a close-knit support team. One of the commentators on finals day said that as soon as his wife tired of travelling, that he would stop playing because they are a team.

To walk away from playing is a big deal for a career tennis player. When some players stop winning, they look lost and devoid of purpose. Federer looked happy, healthy and content, as if tennis was a side-line as he already had a full life. Federer didn't seem defined by the win or what he did, but instead by who he was.

With the pressure that we face in our lives, if we don't have the right balance, and are constrained by other people's expectations and critical eyes, we can end up trying to find our identity in what we do. When we set our worth in what we do, where we live, what we wear, or what we achieve, as soon as something goes wrong, we start questioning our self-worth and we seem to lose our sense of identity. We can link our identity with the failure of what we couldn't achieve.

For a long time I found my identity in my ability as a singer and a songwriter. I was so insecure, that one time when I met a new friend who mentioned she sang, I embarrassingly needed to show her right there and then that I was a good singer and so burst into song! I look back and cringe. I was threatened by someone else having similar talents to me and it made me question my worth.

Do we have the right balance in our lives? Are our lives so focused on our success or an outcome, that if we fail we feel like our life is shattering into a million pieces? Of course we go through triumphs, failures, different seasons and highs and lows, but what is it we put our hope in and where do we find our identity?

I find my hope and identity in God. Yes, being a singer and songwriter are very much part of who I am, but they are not the ultimate definition. I am a child of God, precious and loved. I am an encourager and I find my identity and peace in Him, and not in what I do. I do what I do because it gives me great enjoyment, and it flows out of me and brings joy, not because I am defined by what I do.

I want to let you know that this love and hope is there for anyone who wants it. All you have to do is to receive it. I believe God loves each and every one of us, and this is founded in Jesus, God's Son, who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have a hope and a future. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.