Identity: The difference between proving and knowing
A Year without an Identity
My previous job required ID badges.
During my orientation I skipped the part where they make it, so I never started wearing one. I spent the first year roaming the halls without the mandated identification. And everything was fine.
On occasion, hospitals are inspected by government authorities to find people like me. Rule breakers. The ones causing trouble and ruining healthcare.
After that first year, I started feeling guilty. I decided to report myself and have my ID badge made.
As soon as I walked into the room I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as I had hoped.
I told the lady behind the desk that I needed a badge because I spent the previous year not wearing one and I was here to make my wrong right. She didn’t see my courageous act the same as I did, one of positive change in my life. She chose to focus on the negative.
Me: I need to have a badge made.
Lady behind the desk: Why don’t you have a badge?
Me: Because it was never made.
Lady: How are people going to know who you are? Don’t you want people to know who you are?
Me: They all seem to know who I am.
Lady: They can’t know who you are if you don’t wear a badge.
Me: After I tell them who I am, they do.
Lady: Well, you need to have a badge made.
Lady: I need to see your driver’s license. You do have one of those don’t you?
The badge was made and I conformed.
The Proof is in the Pudding
The issue wasn’t really whether or not people knew who I was, but whether or not I was proving my identity. It seems that the people who make all the rules sleep better at night when the world is labeled with undeniable evidence.
I wondered why so many people walked around with bags under their eyes.
Without the badge, I was known. When I walked in, they would say hello. I would be asked how my weekend was or how my children were doing. Sometimes an issue would develop that only I could help them with. They knew I was the person they needed and didn’t ask anybody else until I arrived.
All of this without the proof.
The Badge of Religion
When it comes to God and religion, I am the rigid rule maker struggling with insomnia.
I struggled with knowing who I was in the eyes of God, so I wore a badge to prove that I was the real thing. To prove it to myself. To prove it to everybody else. To prove to God that I deserved his extravagant love.
I wore a badge whenever I attended church. I knew what was expected and I did it.
I wore a badge when I told people I was fine, instead of being a guy who struggles. Instead of being human.
I wore a badge by not cussing.
I wore a badge when I stepped into a voting a booth.
I wore a badge when I prayed publicly, careful to say the right words instead of opening my heart to God.
I wore a badge of external morality, focusing more on my behavior than my relationship with Jesus.
I wore a badge of guilt because I knew I wasn’t good enough.
The God Who Knows
Knowing a person has nothing to do with the badge we wear. Knowing is about being with someone. It is about spending time with them through the good and the bad. It is laughing and crying. It is faithfulness. It is reaching out in a time of need. It is love.
And God knows me. I don’t have to prove anything to him. I can’t. He doesn’t want or need me to. He sees me and knows me and loves me.
He knows me, even without the badge to prove it.
This is grace. A love that we do not earn. A love that we do not deserve. He chooses to love because of who He is.
My true identity is not in anything I do, but in everything that Jesus has done. I am forgiven. Clean. Guiltless. Redeemed. Beautiful.
I am the beloved of God. And I don’t want to be anything else.
Do you wear a badge? Do you feel you have to prove who you are to God, the church, or anybody else?
I love stories. Tell me yours in the comments.