A Confusion of Identities

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.
– SuperTramp, Logical

The story broke this week that activist Shaun King, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, is white.  That’s a story.  That’s a breaking story.  Why?  Because King identified himself as biracial and the evidence is mounting that he is not.  He’s just white.  Plain old white.  Did he know he was white all along? Or did he really think he was (and is) black?  King said by the time he went to high school he identified himself simply as black, not biracial. His mom is white; there is no doubt of that but even though King’s family members say he is white, born to his mom and the white man named in his birth certificate, King claims his real father was an unknown black man with whom his mother had an affair. Confused yet?

Sounds familiar to another story from A few months ago. Remember Rachel Dolezal the president of a chapter of the NAACP who identified herself as black even though both her parents are white?  She said there was no proof her parents were her parents because there was no medical witness to her birth (which was in a teepee) and her birth certificate wasn’t filed for 7 weeks. She claimed she grew up seeing herself as black and drew pictures of herself with dark skin and curly black hair.  But in 2002 she sued the black college she was attending for discriminating against her because she was white.  Confusing.

Besides the Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal stories there is Elizabeth Warren who called herself a Native American, and proud of her Native American heritage but has no Native mirror-image1Americans in her family lineage.  And then the great big story of the year of Bruce-Caitlyn Jenner who changed his-her physical identity to match his-her internal identity of a woman.  Very confusing.

Identity is not optional.  We cannot live without one.  Not knowing who you are is the worst kind of psychosis.  It is so bad that truly crazy people will take on any identity rather than be identity-less; they’ll call themselves a rabbit, or take to calling themselves Jesus Christ.  I found this quote from Rachel Dolezal to be very appropriate:

“Overall, my life has been one of survival, and the decisions that I have made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive.”

True.  Very true.  But not necessarily in the way Rachel thinks.  She puts identity in that category of things that get things for us.  Identity is actually the thing that we must get or we have nothing at all.  The trouble with the identity stories we’ve read about lately is just this: the people seeking to use identity to accomplish something – social justice, career advancement, emotional integrity – have all missed a crucial and eventually devastating fact.  If you create your own identity then you must maintain it.  This is real identity confusion.  This is a real problem.  This isn’t to belittle the problem of having identities we don’t like.  That’s a problem too.  If you feel like being white is better than being black or that being a woman is better than being a man or that being an Indian is better than being white – if you really believe that – it presents a huge problem.  It’s whey people take on not just racial identities but also social and emotional identities.  People become the hero, the success story, the doctor, the lover.  All of them have the same fatal flaw; self maintenance.  It gets exhausting maintaining a self generated identity.  And when someone questions our self generated identity, we have no choice but to defend it.  We have to; it’s a matter of survival.

Surely though, all of us must recognize that it isn’t a breaking news story that will ultimately expose our lesser identities.  We will have to pass out of this life at some point.  Then who will we be?  All our carefully produced images will melt away and we will be in the presence of Eternity; in the presence of The Identity.  That experience will either be terrifyingly confusing or comforting depending on how we have oriented our lesser identities in the here and now.  The gospel is the only system of thought that tells people they can have a given identity now that will last forever.  It says God wants to give that to anyone willing to accept it.  The Christian term “repentance” is really nothing more than giving up lesser identities for the true identity of the God who created us.  The world could use more people who are not using systems, money, or other people to create temporary identities; who are humbled by an identity they did not earn, but emboldened by the riches of an identity that cannot be taken away.  SuperTramp said please tell me who I am – that is why Jesus came; to tell you who you are, and it isn’t a slave to God’s law but as a son for God’s glory and for your identification – and there will never be a breaking news story when that identity is exposed as a lie.  We can rest in it.

Waiting for Sex: What Difference Does it Make?

We already know people are having more sex sooner in relationships than ever before, but did you know this:  a recent study revealed that waiting only a month or two to have sex boosts longer term relationship success rates to 26%?  And 35% of people who wait just six months before engaging in sex are still in that relationship a year later.

What is the correlation?  Why does waiting to have sex make any difference at all?  The answer is that sex is the flavor of a relationship, not its substance.  This is the opposite of the message our culture insists upon.  Sex does not connect us if we are not connected – sex expresses a connection.  Waiting to have sex means there is a greater chance of knowing someone – making a substantive connection – before putting on sexual blinders.fingerprint.heart-4476

Is this really so hard to believe?  How many of us have a friend who started hanging out with someone you and all your other friends knew was a bad fit in about 15 minutes?  Then your friend started sleeping with the misfit and insisted on staying with them in spite of all the evidence it was not going any where.  What finally broke the spell?  Usually one of two things; either (a) your friend or the misfit started sleeping with someone else or (b) for whatever reason your friend and the misfit couldn’t have sex for a while.  It’s like a fog lifts isn’t it?  Your friend emerges from the cloud.  All of a sudden the misfit is a Misfit.  What happened?  The sex was masquerading as connection.  Sex insisted the two were compatible.  Sex has a loud voice.  It is hard to ignore when it speaks up.  But we are not made for temporary physical connections, we were made for permanent whole person connections and our true selves will eventually cry out with a voice louder than the best sex.  Why?  Because we want to be known fully and accepted completely. Sex at its best falls woefully short of expressing our full self or assuring us we will not be rejected.

Waiting on sex turns out to be the smaller issue.  Wait on it as long as you like and it still won’t give you what you need.  But if you discover that the gospel offers you a lover who waits for you, who knows you utterly, and accepts you unconditionally…then sex isn’t so loud anymore.  Then you can take it or leave it, and if you take it, you can relax and enjoy it more completely than all the breathless unhinged desperate souls trying to milk a few moments of being known out of mere sex.

What Gavin DeGraw Noticed (and all of us know)

I’m surrounded by liars everywhere I turn
I’m surrounded by impostors everywhere I turn
I’m surrounded by identity crisis everywhere I turn
Am I the only one who noticed?
I can’t be the only one who’s learned – Gavin DeGraw (I Don’t Wanna Be)

The real identity crisis comes when you find out there’s no one to validate your identity. No umpire to call balls and strikes. No judge to render a verdict. No higher authority to give you an opinion. It comes when we notice that either we have a temporary identity made from the dust of the ground or that we must turn to a real God who made us from the dust of the ground to tell us who we are.
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Can’t Keep Swimming

How far can you swim? How long can you stay afloat? What if you discover there is no shore in sight in any direction, how would you know which way to go? And would it take your heart away? As I held a new born baby boy this week I realized he was just like me. Born afloat. Born swimming without knowing how to swim. For a while others will be his buoyancy. He will get a false sense of self sufficiency from this. He will begin to stroke away. His parents will encourage him. It is natural.

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Everyone wants to see a person learn to swim on their own. But eventually we know that not only are we swimming alone, we are swimming in a shoreless ocean. We don’t have a choice. We did not ask for it. We are dropped into the depths alone. It may take a long time to find out. It may take a lifetime before our arms get tired and we start to sink. We need a shore and we need real help to get there. Otherwise we will sink. What is your shoreline and where do you get help? This will define your life, values, and attitude.

Freight Train

No one can bear the freight of another person’s soul. The best among us cannot create or sustain a full identity in anyone, not even the ones we love the most. The reason is simple: something of infinite value must also be infinitely heavy. Your soul, my soul, our souls, are imprinted with Glory – the fingerprint of God as it were. And even a single fingerprint of God weighs more than all the finite mountains and seas.

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