Thursday, May 14, 2015

Find Your True Identity

Sometimes I look at American culture and see a massive identity crisis, corporately and individually.

As a kid in the 60s I was in love with Elvis. I wanted the Elvis gene in me. One day I took an Elvis album cover into the bathroom, propped it up against the mirror, and began working on my image. I tried to get my hair to look just like Elvis's hair. Elvis would often curl his lip up in a kind of sneer. I wanted that for myself, so I practiced the Elvis lip curl. 

After my self-makeover I went out of the house, through my back yard, straight to my friend John's home. I was feeling good about myself! I was feeling Elvis-ish. I was Elvis. I am Elvis. When John saw me he said, without hesitation, "So you're trying to look like Elvis again?" I had hoped he would mistake me for Elvis. I wanted some shock and awe props! My facade was penetrated, my image-bubble had burst.

Today, many years later, I find myself not wanting to be like anyone else and discovering it to be freedom. I do want to be like Christ, but not like you (even if you are Elvis). I want Christ to be formed in me. (Galatians 4:19) God has spoken through many people to influence me. But this makes me want to be more like Jesus. Other people are not my hope of glory. Christ is.

 When I started off in college I was planning to be a metallurgical engineer. I headed in this direction because my high school counselor said it would be something I could do. And, I did like science. Here is something I know about metal. If you have a block of solid metal you can test its integrity. "Integrity," in metallurgical engineering, means that a block of metal is the same at point A as it is at point B as it is at point Z. If at any point the metal lacks integrity, it will crack when pressure is applied. "Integrity" means: "as of one piece." This is the idea of consistencyI want a life of greater integrity. I want my being to be "of one piece," and that piece is Christ.

If Christ has every part of me, then I have integrity. My life will have consistency as my life consists of Christ. When life's pressures squeeze I will remain firm and unyielding, even content, no matter the circumstances. But if, when under pressure, I crumble, it is at that point that I lack the influence of Christ, hence a lack of integrity. 

If Christ grips every piece of my being then I am Christlike when no one is around, Christlike in my home, Christlike in the work place, Christlike at the worship service, Christlike in the bathroom, and Christlike when invading the darkness. Jesus wasn't someone different when the crowds weren't around, right? Jesus didn't wear a Christ-mask.

Thomas Merton, in Raids on the Unspeakable, wrote: "If we take our vulnerable shell to be our true identity, if we think our mask is our true face, we will protect it with fabrications even at the cost of violating our own truth." 

It took some time for me to realize that, not only is Elvis not my true identity, no one is. My identity is found in Christ. Christ has made his home in me. Christ indwells me. I will allow Christ to be formed in me today. And be free.