The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease….

As the conversation continued I had to divulge how much money I make a year both to this woman and to another co-worker. To be honest I’m not bothered by how little I make, but I do chuckle because the idea that I might live under a freeway overpass suddenly seems like the next most logical admission.

When her co-worker responded to my yearly income by double checking, “You mean annually?” I laughed and said, “I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works out.”

In response to this, the woman, whose stiff reaction I had taken for scorn made a comment in an almost bitter, but not sarcastic voice about how, “well, but at least you’re doing good for other people.”

This is when I realized that her problem was not that she thought I was a crazy, fanatical Christian, it was that she was judging herself.

Dear friend, why do we do this? When will we pull the pistol of comparison from our temples and accept who we are?
I have great compassion for this woman because this is the very thing I’ve been doing for the past few days. Depending on which direction you’re looking in my life, you can either believe I’m some great saint, or you can see me as a worm, inching along the filthy ground with only a very generous and forgiving God to recommend me.

Should I believe those who think I’m great? Should I believe my old self who keeps telling me I’m a worthless git?

Or should I just look at God and hold on to the reality that he brought me into this world and chose me out of it to belong to him? Honestly, this is all I have. Also, it is all I need.

It’s not about bad or good self-esteem. It’s also not about bad or good living. I’m not exceptionally beautiful, clever, talented or holy. But somehow God in his RICH mercy and love accepts me into his family, into his heart. And this banker? He loves her just as much.

Paul says it best:

“The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:13-17

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