Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Identity: The difference between proving and knowing

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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.

Positive Change

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.

Me: Exactly.

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.

photo by Robert Occhialini (Creative Commons)

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.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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20 Replies

  1. Oh, I love this post, Jeremy!  Yes, God knows us, loves us and understands us!   My post this morning actually talks about this subject of God knowing us.  I was struck  by that same reminder after reading about Nathanael and how God saw him sitting under the fig tree even before being called.   Thanks for your encouragement!

  2. That is a great story. I like how they shared an intimate moment, one that nobody else could enter into. 

    Here is the link to Eileen’s post. Everyone should go read it.

  3. Thanks for the reminder on how important authenticity is!

  4. HA! I love your cheek: 
    Lady: Well, you need to have a badge made. Me: Exactly.

    I think I’ve been wearing the writer badge. Since I started writing full time and people ask me what I do, some of them Ooo and Ahh over my title. I’ve grown to expect it and wear it on my sleeve (or around my neck) like an identity. It’s exhausting, really. Instead, I’d like to wear a badge that says, Son.

  5. I’m on of those people who ooo and ahh. son is a great label. I also like the badge of “lover.” feel free to let your imagination take that as far as you want because it’s all a good thing.

  6. Recovering Pharisee

    We all tend to display a badge of one form or another; pedigree, profession, scholastic achievement, denomination, marital status, the list goes on. But you are so right about Him knowing us intimately. I often imagine that He laughs out loud when He sees us offering our badges of identity to others and He especially gets a tickle when we offer them to Him!

  7. Stephanie Hilliard

    One day I was listening to a Christian song where the singer questioned why God would bother to love sinners. And I suddenly realized “why not?” Not because we deserve it, but because He is love. I think it was at that point that I not only realized the depths of God’s love, but also accepted it into my life. That was true grace.

    Before that, I was much like you – always thinking that love was possible and always trying to prove myself worth loving. Now I respond because I AM loved, not because I want to EARN love.

    This is a huge difference and one that I think a lot of Christians miss…robbing them of the peace and joy that comes from being loved.

  8. What a great story, Stephanie. When you respond to being loved instead of living to earn it, it makes a huge difference doesn’t it.

  9. It is hard to imagine how silly we must look. Thankfully he keeps loving us despite this as well.

  10. Great post Jeremy. Too often we put on our masks and fake badges to play the game. The game of safety, of comfort, of I’m fine. 

    I know I play it too. When things are not going well, I’ll say I’m fine. If I’m depressed, I’ll tell others I’m happy. 

    It’s a game that needs to stop being played. And I’ll continue to work on and improve in this area.

  11. It’s amazing how persistent we can be at playing games even when we aren’t very good at it.

  12. YES. Grace is one of those beautiful concepts that leaves me shaking my head in awe of such a God every time. I wear the badge of the rebel, the black sheep of the family, the nonconformist. When I’m around family and other Christians, I fight against their doctrines and beliefs [even if I agree with them]. And when I’m around non-Christians, I’m more than willing to talk about Jesus and what He’s done in my life. But it’s tiring. I can’t honestly say why I’m so fiercely individualistic. But it’s so comforting to know that I don’t need to do anything for God. He knows me, and He knows that there’s no one else quite like me.

    I love your honesty in this post, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing.

  13. After years of conforming, I swung the other direction. I think I do just to explore. To actually experience the other side at least for a moment. The beautiful thing is that I don’t think any of that matters, not if you what you wrote and I wrote is true.

  14. Speaking of literal badges, I’m kind of like you in being a rule-breaker. I don’t have one. But neither am I officially employed so I guess that means I’m in the all clear (this week). I don’t have a parking tag either which will be a fun battle to fight someday.

    As for wearing a badge for the God, I feel unworthy to wear the badge He’s given me as His daughter.


  15. I have worn the badge of unworthiness before, too. I wore it because it fits. But then Jesus took it off me. I am unworthy, but he is worthy. And when God looks at me, he doesn’t even notice my unworthiness, he sees Jesus. So I threw that badge away because it is a lie.

  16. This was my life some years back – I had a badge for everything and everywhere – church, family, relationships, office.

    Until it wore me down to the bone and mercifully, God began to grow me up :) 

    I like how you’ve put it elsewhere in the comments – we can be so persistent at playing games that we are obviously awful at.

    I doubt I am more “perfect” now, compared to then.

    I am just more happy with myself, confident in God and His purpose for my life.  

    Great post. Love your story.

  17. It does wear you out doesn’t it. You feel like an old wash rag that is constantly being used to clean up one mess or another. Thankfully Jesus offers rest. Nice to hear from you, Ngina.

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