An Identity Not Anchored in Success or Failure

I’d like to take a survey to see how many first impressions are correct. And what my first impression is…not sure I want to know. One of my former teammates was quite honest and told me I didn’t sit well with her the first time she met me. I was over-the-top, Texas-big-hair nice. “Hiiiiii, I’m Annnnnie,” she impersonated a syrupy sweet voice — it was Splenda, not sugar in the raw.

I guess that stuck with me because authenticity is what I gravitate towards. Not because I claim to be the most genuine article on Earth, but because I really, really admire those who are. Those who remain steadfast and unchanged by their environments, because they’re so secure in who they are.

I’m reading “The Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper. Their story is incredible in some ways, and perfectly logical others. Most of the book is in Joanna’s voice, with little elaborations or interruptions featuring Chip’s point of view.

JoJo majored in broadcast journalism and ended up scoring an internship at 48 Hours, working with Dan Rather in NYC. Then she went back to Waco and worked at her dad’s auto shop while pondering her future. (You need to go read how she met Chip and their unlikely love story!) But gosh, a lot made sense after I found out she majored in broadcast journalism. Sure, their TV slot came from a cold call after someone from HGTV saw JoJo’s design work on a blog, but the raw materials were there for a successful show.

Chip was a serial entrepreneur — he sold scantrons to classmates who forgot theirs on exam days at Baylor. He opened firework stands all over Waco in the weeks before 4th of July. He bought up little junker properties, fixed them up, and rented them out to college students. He started landscaping businesses while in college. He was fearless and impulsive. And it’s inspiring to see how his can-do attitude influenced JoJo to open a shop and pursue design.

Their sizzle reel (the audition tape for HGTV) was actually Chip and Jojo in a fight. Chip bought a houseboat online without seeing it and surprised Joanna with it. It didn’t go over well because it was a bit too much of a fixer upper. Joanna said she was so piping mad that she forgot the cameras were rolling. But the Gaines team eventually calmed down and decided to take on the houseboat project.

The sizzle reel obviously captured HGTV’s affection and the show went on to become the network’s biggest hit ever. Chip and Joanna are fun to watch. Why? Because they’re unapologetically themselves. They haven’t had a TV in their house since they got married, so you know they’re not heavily influenced by TV personalities. They just open a window into their authentic lives and we lap it up.

Matt and I listened to a talk by Dr. Tim Keller yesterday on identity. Ultimately, that’s where our sense of security and authenticity comes from– how we identify ourselves. If our self image hinges on performance, income, appearance, or materials, we’re destined to feel like failures…quite often. We try to model ourselves off other humans who appear more successful than us, who capture more attention than us, because obviously beauty, brains, and the public eye will make us feel eternally successful…

Chip and Joanna have all the worldly success they could ever desire now, but they were happy when they lived in their 800 square foot house too. From reading their book and many articles on the dynamic couple, it seems their authenticity doesn’t come from being secure in their finances, their pretty houses, their fame or even their solid marriage. The bedrock of their confidence and their humility is their belief in God’s grace in their lives.

Regarding the success of her Magnolia shop opening in 2005, Joanna said this:

“It seemed to be working out in that perfectly messy way life works when your trust in God and his plans for your life rather than focusing on your own.”

Man, that resonates with me. How often are our plans derailed and we’re left pissed off, frustrated and deflated? It’s typically when our identity hangs on things going well, going as we planned.

Keller’s whole talk is on finding an identity that can handle success and failure. After listening to his spiel, I’m certain that my reactions to success and failure could use some work.

I like when you guys (let’s be real, mainly gals) like what I write. I think “good for me that my words spoke to them” when you compliment a post. But truth be told, none of these thoughts I share are original. I don’t want to pretend to coin any wisdom that really comes directly from the God-breathed Bible or books based on biblical principles. And any epiphanies I’ve had are not because I’m nearing brilliance, but because I’m attempting to reflect God’s.

Keller summarizes this forever secure identity that we seek like this:

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

I believe this. I have days when the “love yourself” message so often pushed upon us makes me sick.

What is there to love about me? I’m a pretender. I’m impatient. I talk too much. I’m a freaking hothead with my not-even-2-year-old. I’m self-righteous. 

The truth is, I’m not always lovable. To others, and especially to myself. I mess up all the time. I’m not perfect just the way I am (I love how Chris Pratt said this in his MTV awards acceptance speech). But Jesus was perfect for me, so I don’t have to worry about being “good enough” for heaven. I just have to recognize that I’m innately not good enough on my own, but I’m forgiven and accepted and free to do good with the gifts I’ve been given. So I can live with both supreme confidence because I’m loved and with on-my-knees humility because I’m forgiven, always and forever– knowing that anything good in me comes from above.

And knowing this enormous, hard-to-grasp truth is what will keep me from crashing and burning when a dream of mine goes up in flames and what will keep me from finding my security in my temporarily satisfied self when things go right. We ain’t perfect, but we are perfectly loved.


  1. Michelle Cashion

    Love this Annie! Very inspirational and in fact something I needed to hear this very moment. ❤️

  2. Stormi Yates

    Perfectly broken and perfectly loved ♥️
    I’m a hot mess most of the time so it’s music to my ears! I need reminding of this often. Loved reading your beautifully mastered words.

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