Identity theft is a well known problem in this day and age, and we are well advised to take the necessary measures to guard our identity from those who would wish to steal it. Does this, I wonder, have any spiritual parallels? What dangers await if we allow ourselves to be robbed of our spiritual identity? After all, we know the devil is a thief and a liar, so the threat of this happening is perhaps more real than we would expect.
While contemplating this, I was reminded of the following story, which I recounted in my book, ‘Unwrapping Lazarus’.
“Post natal visits were one of my joys when I worked full time as a General Practitioner in Swanley with my own list of patients. Having normally been there when the initial good news of pregnancy was announced to an excited Mum to be (sometimes Dad was in attendance too) through the months of pregnancy, up to the time of birth, I used to enjoy accompanying my patients through this part of the adventure that is about life itself.
Then news would arrive of the birth, and a letter would confirm this and that Mum and baby were now home from the hospital, having been checked out to make sure all things were well, which generally they were. The community midwives would call regularly in the first few days after returning home to check how things were going. My part was to perform the “post-natal visit” in which I would go to the house to check all was well with mother and baby already knowing with some confidence what I would find. Really it was more of a social occasion, sharing the joy of the family, having a cup of tea, and answering any concerns that might be there. I used to look forward to these occasions as they provided a welcome break from some of the pressures of medical work and I normally scheduled them for a day when I had a bit more time on my hands.
So on this day I turned up at the house of a young couple whose baby had been born about a week previously. I remembered the mum coming to see me about 8 months earlier hoping that she was pregnant, the joy of confirming that this was so, and following her pregnancy as it progressed without problems. We knew each other quite well, news from the hospital and the midwife was good, and I was ready to share in the joy, and hopefully a cup of tea and a biscuit. I walked up the path to the front door swinging my briefcase happily, rang the doorbell, and a man whom I presumed to be the husband greeted me warmly and welcomed me into the sitting room. He explained that his wife was upstairs with the baby and would be down soon, I offered my congratulations on the new arrival, and he set off for the kitchen to put the kettle on and then upstairs to let his wife know that I had arrived. This was nice. I sat down feeling content and relaxed. A few minutes later he returned with cups of tea for the two of us and sat down opposite me.
“Now I have an important question” he said.
“Fire away” I replied.
“What will happen if both my wife and I die?”
I was surprised – very surprised. Surely this was not the moment for such sombre thoughts, the baby had only just arrived, everybody seemed to be in good health, and I wanted to share in the joy. I collected my thoughts and he looked at me studiously.
“I’m not sure I know how to answer that at this moment in time” I said.
A blank look stared back at me.
“But that is why we want to talk with you” he continued.
I tried to think of a good answer, but my mind wasn’t quite in that gear. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. For once I was at a loss for words. At that moment the door to the sitting room opened and in came his wife carrying the new born baby.
“Hello Doctor” she said cheerfully.
“Doctor?!!” The word escaped from her husband’s lips in a sort of groan, and he turned a very bright shade of red. “I thought you were the life insurance salesman!”
His wife sat down in a chair laughing, her laughter increasing as she heard her husband apologising profusely for not knowing who I was and for the question he had asked, I laughed as well, and the atmosphere lightened and turned to joyful thoughts about the new life that was in the room and all the hopes and dreams that would unfold as time went on.
What the husband expected of me changed the instant he got my identity correct; I was not there to help him think about what to do if a tragedy occurred, I was there to help ensure a healthy life that could be lived to the full.”
This humorous account is about mistaken identity, rather than stolen identity, nevertheless, I would say it illustrates the same spiritual principles. Have a think about the following two questions:
1) If I have a mistaken view of God – will I have a wrong expectation of Him?
Nobody can steal God’s identity, but the devil loves to distort our view of God, and thereby distort our expectations of Him. This can have huge repercussions in both our relationship with him and with others.
2) If I mistake my Christian identity – will I have a wrong expectation of myself?
Remember the twelve spies who were sent to spy out the Promised Land? What was their response to what they discovered? Two believed that they were powerful warriors in the hands of God, whereas the other ten believed they were small grasshoppers who would inevitably be crushed by giants. The mistaken view of identity by ten of the spies had such long lasting consequences, and robbed a whole generation of Israelites of their promised land.
2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
We have this incredible opportunity to participate in the divine nature. Is that not amazing? Our true identity is that we are formed in the image of God and being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.
Let’s hold onto our true identity, guard our correct view of God, and be secure in all that He’s called us to be. We are not grasshoppers, we are sons and daughters of the living God!