As Capitol Hill staffers have begun to trickle back into the DC area for the last week or so, traffic has greatly increased on the Capital beltway and I-395, giving me moments of great frustration, as well as additional time to reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit. I have realized again in the last few weeks, just from my time sitting waiting to get across the 14th Street Bridge, the human proclivity to self-identify and our great need for genuine identity.
We are siblings, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, employees, supporters, sports fans, and the list goes on and on. We see ourselves by the roles we fill, rather than by who we really are. We crave identity and we jump to identify ourselves based on where we come from, our last name, our relationships, who we know, and where we live. I’m not sure if it’s just because we are desperate to belong to something greater than ourselves or if it’s because we want to define ourselves before someone else has the opportunity to do so.
We do it when we meet new people, we do it in casual conversation, and we tend to display all of our affiliations and many of the things we love on the exteriors of our cars. So recently, I’ve been getting to know the people in the cars around me (just their exterior, of course), just from seeing their back dashboard or bumper. It astonishes me that I can tell where an individual went to school, where their kids go to elementary school, what neighborhood they live in, gym they belong to, sports team they support, and many times their favorite vacation destination – all from sitting behind them or passing them on the road.
Even I’m not exempt from this. I laughed the other day as I passed a suburban with an elementary school honor society bumper sticker, and OBX sticker, and a bumper sticker that showed that the family had four kids, a cat and a dog, and then I realized that I do the same thing. I have a red and blue American University School of Public Affairs sticker in the back of my car that I’ve had since I first moved to Washington. I’m proud of my school and of my accomplishments there and it’s part of how I define myself.
But the thing that I’ve begun to realize recently is simple: in a city where so many define their lives by the politician and ideology they support, the university they graduated from, their job title, and their roles within their family or society… it’s that much more important that as a follower of Christ that I draw my entire identity from Christ alone. I don’t want the car I drive, my job, or even my family to define who I am. Does that mean I’m going to pull down my AU sticker or throw a bunch of Jesus fish on my bumper? No. Because really, that will never define who anyone is or how they choose to live.
What it does mean is that I have to give that much more effort to living as Paul did:
Galatians 2:20 I have been tcrucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives uin me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, vwho loved me and wgave himself for me.
And always remembering that my identity must always be found in my life in and through Christ:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For rin him the whole fullness of deity dwells sbodily, 10 and tyou have been filled in him, who is uthe head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also vyou were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by wputting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 xhaving been buried with him in baptism, in which yyou were also raised with him through faith in zthe powerful working of God, zwho raised him from the dead. 13 aAnd you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God bmade alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by ccanceling dthe record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 wHe disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and eput them to open shame, by ftriumphing over them in him.