We never leave home without it. We’re born with it and we die with it. And we spend our entire lives figuring it out… sometimes confused about it, sometimes pleased with it, sometimes trying to dodge it. There’s much about ourselves we can change: our name, our hair color, our clothing style, our occupation. But we will forever be someone’s child, someone’s relative, someone’s neighbor, someone known. We will forever be someone… and a someone with a thumbprint, with DNA, with heartbeats and brainwaves unlike any other someone’s. We carry around and seemingly cannot live without “proof” of our identity as a resident on this planet. But who are we really?
Identity. Being a believer both clarifies it for us and complicates it too. We belong to God… which is both comforting and unnerving. Do we really want to be in God’s view and at God’s disposal 24/7? We are followers of Jesus… which is both honorable and confusing. Are we sure we want our loyalties and priorities arranged by someone who ended up on a cross? And what do we make of Jesus saying his followers are not of the world even though they’re in it? (That’s John 17:14-16). How is our identity not only informed by but also impacted by our faith? As believers, who are we really?
Identity. We can’t live without it. But we’re not always sure of it. William Sloane Coffin asks this great question in his book Letters to a Young Doubter: “What would it be like to have God tell you who you are?” Coffin next says, “I never get over the huge gift and huge demands of Christianity, the gift of God’s love and the demands of human possibility. Christianity has certainly not been tried and found wanting; it has been tried and found difficult.”
Isaiah’s words may not exactly be “proof” of our identity but they’re certainly clear: the Lord says “I have called you by name; you are mine. You are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you.” (43:1 & 4). And those are words we can leave home with and take to the bank!… but not the one on the corner of Liberty Street!