We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer this vast, broken world. About the time we find a scrap of worth or significance, something happens that leaves us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A wounded relationship. A mistake, misstep or failure. Then, in spite of our best efforts at positivity or affirmation, we can’t escape the aloneness, disappointment, and insecurity that linger. When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, few people have earned the right to be heard like my friend Michele Cushatt. Michele knows what it’s like to have the breath knocked out of her lungs, to endure the kind of losses that leave a girl empty and desperate and lost in her own skin. But she also know what it’s like to push through the darkness, to cry out to God for mercy, and to discover the miracle of a God whose love and presence never fail. It’s a grace to welcome Michele to the farm’s front porch today…
He came home one day from seventh grade on the verge of tears.
Of course, he tried to deny it, to blink away the evidence. But I knew better.
This was my tenderhearted boy. The one whose well of emotion ran deep, the one who could never hide either his joy or his pain.
It took mere minutes of maternal questioning before he finally caved:
Bullies. Two of them. Fellow seventh graders.
These were kids he’d once called friends in early grade school. Now they were making an ordinary school day a nightmare.
It had been going on for a few weeks, he said. In Spanish class they openly mocked him, hurling insults in front of the entire class, including a passive teacher. At the end of each day, as he rushed to grab his backpack and catch the bus home, they blocked his way or pushed him to the ground.
Mean. Nothing but middle school meanness.
In seconds, I morphed from gentle mama comforting her baby to raging bear on the verge of attack.
No one hurts my child!
I grabbed my phone, ready to punch in the ten numbers for the school office and expose the bullies to the staff.
Then, a better idea. A face-to-face beat down! I grabbed my car keys, ready to give those boys a talking-to they’d never forget.
“Please, Mom. Don’t.”
My boy’s plea stopped me in my tracks.
“I don’t want you to do anything, Mom. I’ll take care of it. Please.”
Now, I know there are times when bullying needs to be confronted and stopped. I’ve read enough heartwrenching news stories to know the seriousness of adolescent taunts.
But in this case, I could also see my son’s perspective.
He wanted a chance to stand up to them, to handle it himself without running away.
Reluctantly—and after much deep breathing—I agreed.
Within a short time, my son had handled the situation and the bullies had backed off. And he’d found a solid group of close friends—his cross-country teammates—who provided a safe circle of friendship throughout his high school years.
Even better, he found himself.
He came to see his own value, something no bully could take away. That confidence serves him well to this day.
I’ve thought hard and often about those precarious weeks in seventh grade. It could’ve turned out differently. I still have moments when I question my decision to back off. And yet perhaps what my boy needed most I’d already provided:
A promise to go to battle for him.
He needed to know he had someone in his corner.
The fact that I was furious with those seventh-grade boys helped him to recognize the injustice of it. It also gave him courage to stand up to them.
I may not have driven to the school or picked up the phone, but I fought for him just the same.
I fought for his sense of value.
I fought for his dwindling courage.
And I fought for him to discover that no one, no matter how seemingly powerful, can steal who we are. Ever.
To a seventh-grade boy trying to find his way, those truths proved the difference between success and failure on the middle school battlefield.
Our battles may no longer include twelve-year-old bullies.
But every one of us—child and adult alike—need to know there is someone in our corner.
When we’re up against a fight, something that feels far beyond our ability to win, our strength is revived when we know we’re not alone.
This is clearly seen in Exodus 14, when Moses and the Israelites find themselves backed up against the Red Sea.
With an army of angry Egyptians pursuing from behind, they must press forward or be overcome. But how does a beat-down group of former slaves swim across an ocean?
In that moment, faced with personal frailty and the Egyptians’ cruelty, the Israelites panicked. They’d endured much, waiting for their freedom. Now it seemed they had no way out. Fear and doubt pressed in as hard as the approaching Egyptian army.
That’s when God spoke up through Moses:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:13–14).
I can almost hear God’s fiery pronouncement: no one hurts my children!
In the moments that followed, God did indeed fight for His children.
He didn’t swoop down with sword and chariot to cut down the Egyptians.
Instead, in dramatic display, He parted the Red Sea, allowing His children to pass through. Once they arrived safely on the other side, He allowed the waters to return to their place, swallowing up the Egyptian pursuers.
This isn’t the only biblical evidence of God’s willingness to go to battle for those He loves. He did the same when:
- King Jehoshaphat faced a “vast army” (2 Chron. 20:15)
- Joshua and the Israelites fought for Jericho (Joshua 5 and 6).
- Joseph, Mary, and an infant Jesus fled a jealous king (Matt. 2:13–18).
- A world filled with broken, desperate people prayed for a Savior (John 3:16–17).
We have a God who fights for us.
At times I want His fight to look like the elimination of all pain and suffering.
I want Him to swing His sword at every injustice, every disease, every evil.
At times, that’s what He does.
But like a mama who stayed close to her boy, helping him find the faith to navigate the world of middle school bullies, sometimes our God fights for us in ways we didn’t imagine.
He doesn’t remove the battle, but He walks with us through it.
Either way, our God never leaves us alone on the battlefield.
He fights for His children.
To the very end.
And He always wins.
Michele Cushatt and the love of her life, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long run, and a kitchen table filled with people.
Pulling from her experiences of raising children from trauma, a personal life-threatening illness, and the devastating identity crises that came to her family as a result, Michele creates safe spaces for honest conversations around the tensions of real faith and real life.
The words of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of cancer during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reasons why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds. A profoundly needed, helpful read.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]