Identity Crisis

It wasn’t the “who am I” identity crisis occupying my life for the last month. I’m not sitting around contemplating where I fit in this world. No, I was truly having trouble actually proving who I was.

With my license about to expire, my goal was to renew it with a REAL ID. For those of you not familiar, this is a federally compliant version of your old driver’s license needed after Sept 30, 2020 to get on an airplane or to visit certain governmental buildings. There are strict federal laws governing each state: Anyone requesting a REAL ID needs to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who they really are.

My problem was I let my passport expire. I read up on the items needed instead. One of them was a birth certificate. I searched my house for weeks trying to find a document I wasn’t even certain I had. Finally, I gave up and obtained a new one from the county where I was born.

As women, we also have to prove our name change for every driver’s license. So I packed up my marriage license, my birth certificate, social security card and proof of my address before heading out to the DMV. Yet, I was still rejected because I brought my marriage license not a certified copy of my marriage certificate. Never mind this was the very document I used years ago to change my driver’s license, my passport, my social security card, all my bank accounts – you get the idea. The DMV’s logic seemed circular to me, but I did all that in a pre-911 world when I guess the government was more lax about my identity.

I was upset leaving the DMV for not even thinking about obtaining a state issued copy of my marriage certificate. I didn’t think the bar would be so high to prove I am me. Despite this huge frustration, I also was thankful God knows who I am, he has welcomed me into his family and no matter how many names I have, he has only one for me: daughter.

Yes, I was in the midst of an identity crisis of biblical proportions, but also felt God giving me a lesson about who he is and who I was called to be – his! Scripture clearly conveys God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, the orphaned and yes, the rejected. He treasures those of us who have been rejected and made a way to adopt us into the family of God. He never wants us thinking we are left out any longer. Daughters, heirs of God, don’t whine and beg; they pray and believe in God’s love, power and affection.

My identity is firmly established in the finished work of Christ on the cross. His overwhelming victory gives me a place at his table of grace. 1 Peter 2:9 remind us: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV)

Approaching the clerk at the DMV, I was filled with anxiousness and fear of rejection. But when I approach the throne of God’s grace, I am assured of God’s welcome and loving embrace. I will always be his forever, no matter what. That thought leaves me speechless, but in a totally different way than I was at the DMV. My wordless response there was of anger and disappointment that I had failed to prove who I was. Accepting my identity in Christ leaves me speechless in humble, yet awe-inspiring gratitude.

As an heir of Christ, I have nothing to prove – not even who I am – and all of eternity to live out that identity.

Let Go of Failure! Move forward! Live boldly!

“What do you mean?” My voice quivered that morning and I’m sure my eyes had that deer in the headlights look. The customer service agent was patient as she explained once again. “You booked your flight for 9PM instead of 9AM.” Again, I just stared at her. Mistakes like this don’t happen to me. I’m careful, I’m cautious and I double check everything. Then I remembered – that night I spent hours searching for a low airfare. When this one popped up on my computer screen, its low price entranced me and I booked it. In my haste, I didn’t check the actual departure time.

A line of impatient customers formed in back of me while I held back tears. Fortunately, the customer service agent offered me a solution. She would check my luggage and put me on the wait list for the next flight. A glimmer of hope, which was immediately dashed when she said, “This is a popular destination. Most of today’s flights are overbooked. You still might not get out until 9PM. Good luck.”

Walking towards my gate, a torrent of tears flooded my face. I felt utterly defeated, stupid and shamed. I failed. Disgrace poked holes in my confidence. My tears grew stronger. How did I let this happen? How would I explain my failure to my friends who were expecting me at noon and not midnight?

Entering the waiting area, a torrent of wetness flowed down my face. I heard God whisper, “Let it go! Give it to me.” My heart answered, “I can’t, Lord. I’m trying to, but I can’t release my failure.” For a few minutes, I wrestled with God. I was so deeply engrossed in telling God how I couldn’t surrender this fiasco to him, I almost missed the gate agent calling my name over the intercom. Moments later, with a boarding pass in hand, I was still berating myself for this misstep. Yet the tears had subsided and I understood more fully why God was telling me to liberate my inadequacies.

This side of heaven, we will never have total victory, but we will have some. Each and every day, God is transforming you, changing you, remaking you in his image. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

My bigger mistake was not handing my failure over to the God who loved me enough to say “let it go.” In that airport, instead of crying, I should have handed my broken scars back to my heavenly Father. Let go of my insecurity and taken hold of my true identity as a child of God. Let go of my shame – of the feeling no one would love me just the way I am – and taken hold of the grace God was offering me.

When victory, even a small one like this, becomes yours, celebrate them! Don’t miss them as I almost did that day beating myself up for my failure. Seize the victories. Rejoice! Move forward and off of those self-deprecating thoughts. Don’t let failure overcome your heart – celebrate the times when victory is yours!

Celebrate the times when life hands you victory out of defeat.

Celebrate when you didn’t answer a curt word with one of your own.

Celebrate when you forgot the milk at the grocery store and didn’t call yourself a failure.

Celebrate when you didn’t yell at your kids or your husband for leaving their stuff cluttering the living room.

Celebrate the time taken just for you to gain perspective on the day rather than enter it feeling defeated, dragged down and disgusted.

Live boldly knowing God honors your progress and offers grace for the times you fall short.

Stop feeling you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not lucky enough, or just not enough, period. Let go of the feelings that sabotage your confidence, move forward into the arms of God and live courageously knowing God has taken hold of you. Then boldly celebrate all the small victories in your life.

Last One On

She was the last person who boarded the airplane. I remember this distinctly because on this particular flight, for some unknown reason, I scored an upgrade. Despite this stroke of luck, I greedily eyed the empty seat next to me thinking: It would be nice to have that extra space on this long haul.

One look at this final passenger and anyone could see she was carrying the weight of the world. About 80, her eyes downcast, her gait stilted, her carriage displayed grief, disappointment and resignation. Melancholy permeated her, but I couldn’t determine if the sadness was recent or life-long. In my quick glance, my mind was made up. I didn’t want her sitting next to me. Yes, that was me at my Christian best praying, Please God, let her seat be in the back of the plane. This could be a great flight without anyone sitting next to me.

My weak smile greeted her as she stopped in the aisle by my seat. A flight attendant put her carryon in the overhead bin. I managed to keep smiling as I got up to allow her ample access to her seat. Inside, I was burning. Why, God, why? Could I just once have the seat next to me empty?

When she finally sat down, the seat swallowed her. Her skin color matched the gray of the seat covering and without the red blazer she wore, she would have completed disappeared from sight.

I was still smiling when I grabbed my seat belt and fastened it low and tight across my waist – as the flight attendants suggest. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her watching me. Her hands shook slightly as she grabbed her own seat belt and attempted to copy my movements. I turned, still smiling like a stupid circus clown, looking at her face-to-face during her several spastic tries to complete a process that took me seconds.

That’s when I heard God answering my selfish prayer. Talk to her! His words practically boomed in my ears. She needs someone to talk to her.

I might have still had that silly grin on my face when I answered. No God, I don’t want to talk. I want to relax. I want to sleep. I want to forget the pressures of this business trip. Why are you asking me this?

I was in the midst this, when I turned to her and asked her, “Is Chicago your final destination or are you connecting elsewhere?”

She told me she was flying to Chicago to bury her son. She had never been on an airplane before, never navigated an airport concourse, never submitted to the vulgarities of airport security. Through her grief, she accomplished this because of a deep desire to be beside her son’s family when they laid him in the ground.

That’s when I knew. God didn’t want to answer my selfish prayers. His desire was for me to answer someone else’s prayers. Luck didn’t get me this upgrade. It was God who orchestrated the change so one of his children could help another who desperately needed comfort. How stupid I had been. How selfish! God had redeemed my self-centered prayers to be a blessing to someone else.

“Then there is something you should probably know.” Was I still smiling or had I switched into business presentation mode? Unsure, I mixed comfort in my voice. “This particular airport has noise-abatement controls. The take off is different than most. When the airplane is at the end of the runway, the pilot will rev the engines. While they are at full power, he will release the brake, causing the plane to jolt down the runway. Once it lifts off, the pilot will put the plane in a steep ascent, eventually cutting back on the engines. After all that speed, it almost feels like the engines aren’t working.”

I shouldn’t have said all that. She didn’t even know what a normal takeoff felt like. The terror in her eyes signaled I was making matters worse. I thought her fear would boil over into screams. Too much information, I scolded myself. So, I just gently laid my hand across hers and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”

Once we were airborne, she turned to me. “Thanks for letting me know that. I would have been terrified when all that happened.” Now she was the one smiling – barely noticeable, soft and sweet.

For the next five hours, over complimentary peanuts and soda, we talked. Mostly she spoke; I listened. Her life was fascinating. Her marriage had been long, full of love and produced two children. They struggled through things that were history to me: the effects of the Great Depression, World War II, the first Super Bowl. Then she reached things I remembered: the moon landing, the US hockey team winning the gold medal over the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Olympics, Princess Diana’s wedding. This wasn’t a history talk. The news provided the backdrop to committed love: birthday parties, graduations, happy marriages, births of grandchildren and great grandchildren. The melancholy once permeating her was replaced by good memories, by virtue, by love.

It seemed only five minutes later when the seatbelt sign dinged on and the roar of the engines grew louder in preparation for our descent. “Thank you for sitting next to me,” I said to her.

I didn’t have the strength to tell her throughout our conversation I wondered: What if I learned to pray differently? What if instead of being worried about my comforts, I asked the Lord to help me be kind? What if I prayed not with judgmental eyes, but a heart willing to serve? What if I prayed to be God’s answer to someone instead of waiting for God to answer me?

She placed her hand gently on mine. I smiled back at her…warm, admiring and genuine.