Identity Interview with Ardis Nelson
My name is Ardis Nelson and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, author, writer, mom to two teenage young men and wife of 29 years.
Over the last year, I have had some amazing identity breakthroughs that have grown my faith in a tremendous way. In early 2011, I felt a strong call on my life to start writing. I didn’t have any writing credentials or degrees that qualified me to go down this road. In fact, it was quite the opposite as my previous work experience was in payroll and systems analysis. I just knew in my heart that God was calling me to do this.
As I started to step into my identity to share God’s word through my writing, I received confirmation after confirmation that this really was what God wanted me to do.
I was also being spiritually attacked along the way. As the attacks came, it was really hard to not fall back on my negative thinking—that I wasn’t good enough. Satan would taunt me with “Who do you think you are?” I responded with “I am a Daughter of the King and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (It was at this time that I attended Tamara’s first “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” workshop. It was a big turning point for me.)
I didn’t let Satan’s taunts stop me, but his taunts have stopped. Now I regularly blog at ardisanelson.com/makingmebold/ and my first story was published in August in “Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell Their Stories of Forgiveness & Healing.” I am incredibly honored to be a part of this compilation. My story, “Walking My Mother Home” is the healing story of forgiveness with my mother as I ministered to her in the two years leading up to her death.
Then when my father died this summer, I gave the eulogy at his memorial service. It was something I was nervous about doing, but felt led to share some pretty powerful things. It was like the Holy Spirit spoke through me individually to the people at the service. It was magical and life-giving. I had more healing through this experience and I think the family did as well.
It was beautiful.
I know it is because of the identity breakthroughs I had over the last year that these amazing things happened. I have much greater certainty in my purpose and where God wants to use me. At times it is a challenge, because it wasn’t anywhere on my radar to write or do these things. But God is making me bold and giving me his peace when I follow his will for my life. It has been life-changing and I’m very grateful for the healing and second chance to serve God in this way.
Tamara: Ardis, what you have written is very significant, especially as you have overcome the negative thinking and accusations that our enemy put in your way.
Your background makes your breakthrough even more significant because of the childhood challenges I know you experienced. I celebrate your perseverance!
Readers….don’t miss a word of Ardis’ identity interview below; there’s a gift in it for you. You can also read her review of my book at ardisanelson.com.
Identity Interview with Ardis Nelson
Tamara: Consider your life. What early experiences helped shape your identity?
Ardis: My identity was shaped by two key experiences early in my life. The first was when my mother had a nervous breakdown and was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was six years old. The second event was my parent’s divorce three years later. Of course, these events negatively influenced my life, but I didn’t realize how devastating they were to my identity formation until years later. I think both these events gave me the message that I wasn’t worthy of being loved. While my mother’s nervous breakdown was not something she had any control over, the result was that she was not emotionally available for me. I ended up with a deep fear of someday becoming mentally ill. Her emotions were covered up by medication. I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I guarded and hid my emotions.
When my parents divorced, my mother and us three children moved 2,000 miles away from my father—leaving my friends, my home, etc. all behind. He remarried soon after and moved his new wife and her children into our family home. I was replaced, yet I still tried to get my father’s love and attention. Those attempts failed though. He was a very critical person. I could never live up to his standard and never felt like I was good enough.
I didn’t understand the love of our heavenly Father. I felt alone and learned to get my needs met in unhealthy and selfish ways. I learned I was the only person I could count on. My identity was all about me and how to survive—how to look good on the outside and not let anyone know how lonely and desperate I was.
Tamara: How has your faith impacted your identity?
Ardis: I grew up Catholic but left the church in my adolescent years. At 17, I accepted Christ as my Savior, but didn’t have a strong spiritual foundation. As I veered from the church, I became more and more involved in the ways of the world and let that define me. It wasn’t until about ten years ago when I started taking spiritual growth classes and stumbled upon Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program that my faith was more integrated into my identity.
It was through these classes and Celebrate Recovery that I was able to see my part in circumstances of my life. I turned to Jesus as my foundation instead of my own self-sufficiency. I found forgiveness, acceptance, love and healing for the childhood wounds that I carried with me into adulthood. I became more whole and grateful for the transformation that Jesus was doing in me. I accepted that I am ‘good enough’ and that I don’t need to perform for others. I am loved and accepted by God as I am—warts and all. That isn’t an excuse to continue to act out. I desire to be what God wants me to be. I am not embarrassed to be a follower of Jesus and let him lead my life.
Tamara: Describe your sphere of influence.
Ardis: My sphere of influence is mostly centered around recovery and women’s groups. As women, I believe that we often lose our identity to our husbands and people pleasing instead of God pleasing. When women look to God for their acceptance of who they are and work through the brokenness and lies they believe about themselves through deep spiritual growth groups like Celebrate Recovery, they become free to live a Godly life—transformed from the inside out. Co-dependency, or people pleasing, is a woman’s greatest coping mechanism. We want to “feel” loved, so we jump through hoops to do and be everything others want us to be instead of what God calls us to be. We may think we are living righteous and Godly lives when really we are enslaved by our “yes”—by performing or doing what is expected of us.
I have seen many people have life changing transformations as a result of going through a Christ-center program like Celebrate Recovery. People start to see themselves as God sees them. They work through their current and past hurts, habits and hang-ups, become unstuck and are able to move forward with hope.
Tamara: Share your perceptions and experiences of identity formation in the Church.
Ardis: I’m concerned that our churches aren’t getting the message across of the need for spiritual and emotional healing. The pastoral care and recovery ministries of the church should be adequately trained and staffed to support this type of healing. Attendees need to know it is safe to be vulnerable and to not hide their imperfections, but to share them in an authentic environment with people who have walked a similar path of healing.
I am encouraged when I see people share their stories of transformation and healing—like at Celebrate Recovery. Testimonies in this type of setting inspire people to continue on their journey to wholeness.
Tamara: If you had the ability to shape identity formation in the Church, what would you do?
Ardis: I already believe I have a role in helping people to shape their identity—or to change the identity tapes that they currently have by leading recovery groups at my church. I think it is an area that needs much more active participation by the Body. I think there is so much shame around it that people won’t take the first steps to this type of identity transformation. If I could do something to change that it would be to have testimonies from the pulpit. The focus of these kinds of testimonies is not salvation but of “by-stander” believers becoming believers who are “all-in” for Christ and how Jesus healed them.
Tamara: What are your dreams for God’s people as they reclaim their true you?
Ardis: I want to see people boldly live a life that is free from the lies that Satan wants us to believe about ourselves.
Thank you, Ardis, for this excellent interview. I delight in who God has created you to become!