Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Identity Confusion: A stolen credit card & Living as an imaginary friend

What I just wrote for the August Coral Ridge Communicator:

While sitting in a coffee shop, contemplating what to write for this next Communicator Article, I realized my credit card was stolen. So began several minutes talking to the fraud department as we walked through the various transactions the stealer had made. It was remarkable how quickly the person whizzed around town ringing up bills on my card. The great thing is that the credit card company will pay for it all. But still it was disconcerting as I thought about how easy it is for someone to steal another person’s identity. In talking about this after with a family member he chuckled and said “I wonder what ‘you’ decided to buy on ‘your’ shopping spree.”
Recently I was told that a 2 year old to whom I used to teach ballet has decided that I am her imaginary friend. It seems that throughout each day “I” walk around doing all sorts of interesting things with her. I wonder what I do every day in this other life!

While at social events, it is interesting to hear people tell about themselves. One learns much about the “identity” of others. And, if you want to be seen as someone competently achieving the American dream, you quickly learn how to put forth your best “identity.” Yet is this really your identity? Ultimately who you and I are does not have anything to do with those things. My worth is not in my past or current jobs. It is not my ministry. It is not what others think of me. It is not in my grade point average. It is not what I look like. It is not in being an American. It is not my friendships. It is not in romantic relationships. It is not in my family. It is not in my reputation. It is not in my financial state. It is not in what I buy (thankfully so in the case of my credit card! J) It is something deeper. But what? Who am I really? My outward body? My personality?

A year of my life was spent in a wheelchair. Two more years on crutches. During that time people would look at me strangely. Passersby would look at the scars on my face and down my legs and comment to each other: “What happened to THAT girl?” Or, worse, they would just stare. Probably most painful were the friends who, although not meaning to be uncaring, didn’t know how to handle my physical change so just seemed to drop off the face of the earth, all of a sudden “too busy” to be my friends anymore. It was during that season that I learned the reality of how who I am is not in my physical body.
But I also began to understand that “who I am” is not in things such as who I think I am on the inside. Let me explain. The world seems to tell us that who we are is our personality and a certain inward stamina. Greeting cards and talk shows are full of scintillating motivational thoughts about finding “the strength within you.” But what happens when that is ripped away? If that’s where I place my identity, I am on sinking sand. When I was a girl I used to love to laugh. But for a few years after going through the accident where my sister was killed, life just became so serious for me that I lost the ability to say funny things. And, even when I was enjoying something, I would actually forgot to smile or laugh out loud since laughing outwardly was physically tiring. Once while at a Congressional party someone asked me to tell a joke. I just couldn’t remember how and it scared me. Later I went into the hallway and cried. Although by then I knew my identity wasn’t in my physical body, that day I learned that who I am goes much deeper than even my personality. Who am I really?

I am a princess of the Heavenly King. I am God’s treasured daughter, an heir of Christ. This is my identity. Knowing this impacts every thread of my being. It transforms how I view reality, what I live for, from where I draw my strength, and gives me joy and purpose as I walk throughout each day.

It is vital that we understand our true identity and set up camp on it, fortifying our soul with towers of God’s truths regarding who we are. Then, when the Enemy comes in like a flood (or subtly – such as with words of inadequacy when the covers of magazines in the check-out aisle tell us that we aren’t significant because we don’t have the right brand of eye liner), we can immediately combat it with God’s Word.

So, the morals of today’s story are two.
1) Be careful with your credit cards. Someone once told me to Xerox copy everything in my wallet so that I know exactly what is in there. That way I’ll have all my numbers ready to go if it is stolen. I also keep my credit card bank’s phone numbers in my cell phone (not any additional information – just a non-conspicuous listing of the number) which helped me today. Earlier today I received a call from an automated system asking for my social security number because they had reason to believe my card had been stolen. I was not sure whether it was authentic or just trying to get information from me so that they could further steal my identity. Instead of giving information I called my credit card company directly to ask them if they had just called me.

2) Be careful with your real identity. Don’t think that people or circumstances determine your worth. Your worth has already been determined. You are bought with Christ’s blood. You are already seated in the heaven places (Ephesians 5:2-7). Glory in this incredible gift of God! If you are struggling in this, search the Scriptures and post around your house verses that tell you who you are in Christ (there are dozens and dozens).

I’m grateful my identity isn’t wrapped up in what a stranger buys with my credit card or being an imaginary person at tea parties. My identity is in being God’s girl. He delights over me with singing. He fills my life with His sweet presence. That is who I am. This is what ultimately defines me. What great security and confidence this gives! What freedom there is in knowing that no one can tamper with that identity!