While watching some television last week, I saw a few commercials that dealt with an ever increasing problem in this age of technology—identity theft. One of the commercials was an advertisement for a company that offered monthly monitoring of your important accounts. If any suspicious activity occurred with your credit card account or bank account, the company would immediately disable the account and notify the owner to make sure the activity was legit. Another commercial was advertising a wallet that held everything a wallet would normally hold, but it held credit cards and money in a way so that the wallet was thinner, thus reducing the risk of someone pickpocketing you. It also featured a special feature that prevented remote scanning of your credit card or debit card number. I didn’t even know this was possible, but my IT husband assured me that it is possible, although he did qualify that by saying that someone would need to be very close to you to remotely scan account numbers. Of course there are multiple ways to have sensitive information stolen from you. If you shopped at Target a few years ago, you were most likely concerned when they announced the data breach that took place with their computer system. Because that breach took place over the holiday shopping season, thousands of people were affected. I imagine most people, me being one of them, do not think twice about sliding their debit card or credit card through the readers stationed at the end of every checkout line in every major retail store across America. Once Target announced their data breach, it didn’t take long for hackers, very talented people who have way too much time on their hands, to break into other retailers’ systems. Michaels, Home Depot, and even Anthem, a health insurance company, also announced major data breaches where sensitive information was compromised. I have heard stories from people who have fallen victim to these identity thefts. It can be disastrous to straighten out, and for some people, it takes years and years to overcome the fallout from a stolen identity.
I was thinking about how we tend to identify ourselves. Many people, when meeting someone for the first time, ask the question, “So what do you do?” The one inquiring is really asking what that person does to make a living. Their job. What type of work fills the day and makes a living. For many, their job becomes their identity. Of course, most people have more than one job that can fit into this identity category. For example, my husband is in IT (I actually have no idea what his official job title is; I’m not sure he does either!), but he is also a husband, a father, a grandpa, a father-in-law, etc… At one time I was a mom, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. If you’re a full time mom, then there is a host of other identities wrapped up in that one! If you are a homeschooling mom, well, as you can see, this identity thing can get pretty complicated.
In the last couple years I’ve struggled with my identity. I wrote about it here:
Yesterday, though, after leaving church, the words of a worship song sang during the service kept echoing through my head. The song is by Citizens and is titled, Made Alive. The lyrics that kept going through my head were:
“If ever I forget my true identity,
Show me who I am, and help me to believe.
You have bought me back with the riches of,
Your amazing grace and relentless love.
I’m made alive forever with your life forever,
By your grace I’m saved.”
As I thought through the various identities I’ve held over the years, I realized that I have often allowed someone or something else to define who I am. For example, I grew up in what I consider to be a legalistic environment. The rules were made known and breaking any one of them would result in instant consequences. The church I grew up in emphasized the law much more than grace. If you know my story, you know that I spent many years believing I was a Christian only to realize a few years ago that I really was not. I still wrestle with the fallout from those years. Because rules were important, especially in my home, I became what others wanted me to be. My parents wanted a good student, so I strived to be the perfect student. Straight A’s were all I would accept of myself, and if I fell short of that mark, I labeled myself a failure. I loved sports and when finally allowed to participate on a team, I worked hard to be the MVP. I spent every afternoon with a soccer ball at my feet, practicing so I could be the best athlete on my team. My parents like most parents, demanded obedience. I made it a point to try to be the perfect child. Of course, no one is perfect so I fell short quite often. When that would happen, my identity became one of loser or failure or disappointment. As I entered the teen years, I desperately wanted to be accepted by others. The two friends I had seemed to garner much more attention from boys than I did, so I set out to be what I thought boys would want me to be. I could only achieve this to a certain degree, though. The feeling of failure hit over and over during those years. I could go on, but the bottom line is that I have spent most of my life trying to be either who others want me to be or my idea of who others want me to be to gain acceptance. As the lines of the above song played through my head last night, I couldn’t help but wonder who God wants me to be? I know without a doubt that I am a daughter of the King, yet my identity is wrapped up in what the world tells me is important.
The world, more specifically, the prince of this world, Satan, tries to steal my identity and rename it to what is acceptable in worldly terms. The world says I must be pretty to be accepted. The world says I must have a valid job—not just a homemaker– to have worth. The world tells me that one mistake makes me a loser, a failure. The world tells me I am not worthy of friends. The world tells me I am unlovable because I don’t fit the mold that dictates who is lovable. The list could go on. I have believed all these and more, and because I have believed them, I have struggled greatly with feeling like others accept me. After almost every church service, our pastor concludes with the words, “You are loved.” Most often I mentally scoff at those words because I do not feel lovable. In addition to struggling with feeling accepted, believing these lies has stolen any joy that I could have. There have been times I have felt joy that could only come from God, but it is short lived as I listen to the lies that tell me I can’t be joyful because _______________. Some days the blank is filled in with “I can’t do what others do”. Other days the blank is filled in with “I have limitations that prevent me from being what others can be”. The blank varies but it always defeats any joy that may have bubbled to the surface.
“If ever I forget my true identity…” What is my true identity? The question can be answered with a line from another song; “Hello my name is child of the one true King.” The truth is, I am a child of the King. God loves me even though I often do not love myself. Our pastor has told me that God is crazy about me. Oh, how I want to be able to believe this with ALL my heart!
As a child, when I told a lie and it was an obvious lie, my dad used to tell me that the truth will always come out. As I commit to spending more time with God and in His Word, my hope is that His truth will permeate my being and trump the lies that have held residence there far too long. I am tired of trying to wear an identity mask that others have decided is right for me because my true identity is not acceptable. MY true identity is acceptable to God, and His opinion is the one that counts the most.