Identity theft. It’s a thing. Apparently it’s a huge thing. There are companies that make a living off of the fact that people get their identities stolen every day. As a matter of fact, in the United States 1 in every 15 people will have their identity stolen. Gas stations caution us to protect our pin numbers, our banks check to make sure we are using a personal computer to check our accounts, and every single site we do business with requires a password and security questions that only we would know the answers to. It’s just a thing.
It’s a serious thing, but I’ll confess that I’ve always made this joke that if someone hacks my identity and gets into my bank account, the joke is on them. I probably make that joke once a week, never really taking it seriously, but recently I realized my identity had been stolen and the joke was definitely not on the thief.
You see, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to a black tie event. Getting dressed up is fun. When you take time to put on special clothes and do your hair and makeup just right, it always means you’re doing something special or celebrating something meaningful or going somewhere fancy. I put on a long black formal gown with just the right amount of sparkle; I watched multiple YouTube videos to figure out how to sweep my hair into a respectable up-do, and I broke out the ‘evening only’, ‘stay on all night’, red lip gloss. As I put on the finishing touches, some dainty earrings and a tennis bracelet, and slipped into my black heels, I stopped and glanced in the mirror. And that’s when it began to happen…anxiety began to rise up in me. It happens to me every dang time. Every time. As much as getting dressed up is fun, it’s also very hard for me.
“Awe, look at her, she tried, but didn’t quite make it”, is what I anticipated people thinking to themselves. That’s the narrative that began to play in my mind like an old broken record.
My excitement turned to fear and insecurity. Am I the only one? Has that ever happened to you? I mean maybe not about getting dressed up but maybe about some other kind of social setting or event? Probably. It’s a thing, right?
I’ve heard it so many times before, so you’d think I would be able to shut it down quickly, but this night the enemy’s whispers sounded more like a clanging gong in my head than a whisper. You see, just the day before, I crossed something off of my bucket list. I sat for 3 ½ hours in a chair while an artist tattooed something special on my shoulder. It’s big…very big. It’s meaningful…very meaningful. But if you know anything about tattoos, you know that at this stage in the process, my arm looked more disturbing than meaningful. I didn’t want to miss the night, but I also didn’t want to field questions about my arm on top of already feeling insecure about my appearance, so I purchased a plain black scarf for $2.99 from the local thrift store that I planned to wear around my shoulders to discretely hide my unhealed art.
Ready or not, I had to get in a car and make my way to a commuter lot where my friends and I climbed into a large van so we could all drive to the event together. The giggles and chatter from people I love made the van ride to the stadium more relaxing and I confessed to my trusted girlfriend how I was feeling. She assured me that my tat was amazing and that I looked beautiful and for a moment I felt settled. Before I knew it we pulled up to the venue and the driver made his way around to the van door, opened it up, and helped each of us out.
I stepped out of the van and all the nerves stirred in me again as I made my way into the stadium. The scarf kept slipping down revealing my fresh tattoo and defeating the purpose of wearing it. It would slip down…I would quickly shimmy it back up. Over and over until I was more irritated by the scarf than comforted. I whispered to another friend about how I was feeling. She confessed that she had cried while getting ready for the night because she also felt insecure. I was frozen in time for just a second because, my friend is beautiful and kind and smart and accomplished.
How on earth was she walking into this situation feeling as awkward and as insecure as me?
And that’s when it hit me. I heard God speak directly to my heart. At first I heard it for my friend, but then I quickly remembered that if it was true for her then it was true for me too! (and also you) God reminded me that the only thing the enemy had on his mind that night was stealing from me…he wanted to ruin my night…mess with my relationships…make me forget who I am.
The enemy is a master at identity theft.
The enemy knew something special and abundant was about to happen in my life and relationships and he stepped in to take it. The enemy tried to ruin my night by convincing me that I did my best and my best fell short…I had put all my effort into looking nice, but somehow it just wasn’t good enough…that somehow I was just not good enough.
Then God reminded me that He had only one thing on His mind and it was abundance.
Jesus came to this earth to bring us abundance…Jesus came into my life, into your life to give us full lives…overflow even so we can give to others. I heard deep in my soul, my father remind me that my identity is in Him; chosen, loved, valuable, free, forgiven, accepted…and that I had a choice. I could walk into the party defeated, feeling less than, feeling unworthy, feeling like I didn’t belong, or I could walk in confident in my royal heritage.
Did you know you have a choice? When the enemy sneaks into your thoughts and steals your identity, you have every right and all the power to choose to ignore him. Easier said than done, right? Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the enemy using our thoughts as his playground so we forget our right to refuse to listen or change our thought process. That’s why it took me a minute to get my footing back after my stinkin’ thinkin’ rocked me. I was so worried about what people would think of me. I was worried I’d be judged for my appearance and found less than. I was so self-focused. That’s what insecurity is. Ouch! That hurt, but it’s true. Our enemy loves it when we are self-focused. It’s good and right and normal to take time to look our best…to feel good about ourselves, but when it turns to anxiety over what others may think, a line has been crossed. A friend once told me that it was none of my business what other people think of me, and she’s right! The responsibility of what one human thinks about another human is on the thinker. It’s not about us!
But even when we can intellectually wrap our heads around that truth, we can still spin with insecurity in these situations because we may have experiences in the past that have wounded us. I’ve experienced first hand the pain that comes when other people make uninformed judgments or refuse to see things from a different perspective. Although those wounds have healed and scarred, the pain lingers in my memory and informs the way in which I interact with my world. That’s just the way this broken world works. Our experiences, good, bad, or ugly inform our interactions. The good news is that God uses those painful experiences to teach and grow us but the enemy tries to use them to rob us blind.
So I made a choice.
I decided that if I was to enjoy the night, I was going to need to stop trying to hide, I was going to need to stop trying to make myself so small that nobody would notice me, and just be me…the me that God created…the me that loves parties and people…the me that loves tattoos. So I folded the scarf and tucked it in to my tiny
feather clutch and walked in with a big smile on my face with God’s most powerful commandment forefront in my heart and mind: Love God and love people. I shifted my focus from myself to the people around me and did my best to love them well.
And do you know what happened?
I laughed and bonded closer with friends. I ate a fancy dinner. I had my picture taken with the World Series trophy and Fredbird. Side note just to give you a giggle: I called the World Series Trophy the Stanley cup all night long and nobody said a word! Whoops! It wasn’t until the next morning when I showed someone the pic and exclaimed, “Look, I had my picture taken with the Stanley Cup!” and they responded with, “Ummmm…that’s not the Stanley Cup!” that I knew I’d made that mistake. Ha! That’s neither here nor there, but the night was more than I expected and I was blessed to the point of overflow. At some point in the night, I stopped and said to my friends, “I know I’m supposed to be impressed with WHERE we are right now, but honestly I’ve hardly noticed because all I can think about is how much fun I’m having with each of you! And I meant every word of it.
You see, when I stopped listening to the enemy and started listening to my King, I was able to live into my true identity. When I took the focus off myself and put it on loving others, I lived into abundance. It is the antidote to identity theft.
Why would I share this story? I want you to know that if you’re identity has been stolen because of something that has happened to you or life’s circumstances or a mistake you or someone else has made, you can get it back. We all forget who we are from time to time. We all make mistakes. We are all susceptible to turning our focus inward. I don’t know what you may be walking through today, I wish I did so I could speak directly to you, but I want you to know this:
Whatever it is, it’s something that happened, it’s not who you are…
Without ever having met you, I know that you are wildly loved by the Creator of the universe…I know that you have been chosen…that every day was ordained for you…you have gifts…you have value…you are beautiful.
If you don’t remember a word you just read, remember this:
I love you and I’m glad you’re here.