Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Love Story Week 3: Identity theft

"Robber" by Elliott Worley

Last week I discovered that I might be the victim of identity theft.  We had to engage a credit monitoring service, which will watchdog activity for awhile.  We were glad to learn there had been no fraudulent activity so far, but it was sobering to look at their report.  I mean, there was everything in my public record and my credit history.  My whole identity laid out on a page, summed up in columns of transactions.  Is that who I am?

If you've ever had to fill out a college application or a job application or create a resume, you know that feeling:  trying to sum up your whole identity by a list of achievements and credentials.  It's why I don't write an annual Christmas letter.  I can tell you where we went on vacation this year, what our kids achieved, whether we renovated our kitchen—but that doesn't really tell you who I am after living this year.

I felt vulnerable, knowing that someone could change who that report says I am. Just by adding a bunch of transactions, the thief could change who the world thinks I am.  They could wreak such havoc on my opportunities, my credentials, my relationships.

So, I'm saddened to come to this week's Bible story and find that I actually have been the victim of an identity thief.  

Now the snake was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

- Genesis 3:1

There was Eve in the garden, so completely innocent.  I can picture what it looked like: it looked like my children playing alone in the back yard, completely lost in their play, completely without any hubris.  Completely unguarded.

Most of the childhood that I remember was spent in Dallas, Texas.  My family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana for two years, when I was in the fifth and sixth grade.  Fifth grade was the year I got glasses; sixth grade was the year I encountered Ginger and Shelly.  Ginger had red hair and Shelly had blonde hair, and they ran the sixth grade at Creswell Elementary School.  I was the new girl, and I was desperate for Ginger and Shelly to like me.  And pretty much, people had always liked me.  

Across the street from Creswell Elementary School, there was a drug store with a soda fountain.  (I am not making this up. I did not grow up in Back to the Future, but it was the sixties in a small town.) Every day after school, as we were walking home, we stopped at the drug store, where you could get a little tiny glass of Cherry Coke in one of those old-fashioned Coke glasses.  And every afternoon, Ginger and Shelly would pull me over in the cotton ball aisle to tell me "for my own good" what dorky thing I had done that day which meant I could not be accepted in their circle of friends.

That was not the year I stopped being a child, but that was when I became a guarded child.

Ever since then, if you say to me, "I need to talk to you about something," I am nervous as a cat; I'm right back in the cotton ball aisle.

There are grown up Gingers and Shellys roaming about, even in the church. (They also like the PTA, or whatever it's called now.) I ran up against a few of them on a church committee, on which I served many months of misery.  I came home crying most of the time.  One day my sweet and spunky friend Cindy Sterling rang my front door bell.  I opened the door and found that Cindy had left me a package of those round cosmetic pads you use to remove makeup.  The note on them said, "No more cotton balls!"  I quit the committee.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, 

‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, 

and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

- Genesis 3:1b-5

Oh, Eve.  What if you had replied differently?  What if you had said, "I am like God.  He made me in His image.  I don't need to know what He knows. I trust Him."  Life would have been so different.

But:  what if I responded differently?  

Satan is always hauling me from the garden into the cotton ball aisle, telling me about the one thing that would make me more acceptable/special/happy/fulfilled/good-as-everybody-else.  He's always showing me everyone's Pinterest feed and their Facebook pages, with their fabulous vacations and gorgeous dinners and kitchen renovations.  What if—this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow morning—when he comes at me, I said, "I'm already acceptable/special/happy/fulfilled/good-as-everybody-else?"  Why do I keep letting him steal my identity?  Why does God keep having to come find me, hiding behind my unrenovated kitchen cabinets, asking, "Who told you you were naked?"

"It was the snake!  He tricked me, and I ate!"

- Gen 3:12

Yes, that is what he does.  While he is pick-pocketing your identity, he distracts you by pointing in the direction of something-God-is-surely-withholding-from-you-and-you-need-to-get-for-yourself.  He lures.  He entices.  

I'm not letting Eve off the hook.  She chose. Poorly.  She chose to look.  She chose to doubt.  She chose to desire.  She chose to do something about it.  That's how it works. "Then desire, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown, brings forth death." (James 1:15)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. 

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

- John 10:10

When Jesus says, "I came that they might have life," it is the Greek word   , which means "life as God has it."  Jesus came to give us back the life that God created in the beginning.  When John writes in his Gospel about seeing Jesus up close and personal, he says, "In him was   ."  (John 1:4)   Jesus understood that's what he had come for.  Long, long ago, when God had settled on us as the focus of his love, at the center of his long-range plan was the fact that he would deliver this    life through the hand of his beloved Son.  (Ephesians 1:4-6 MSG)

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

Ephesians 1:11 MSG

Every day we have Eve's choice: to listen to the identity thief or listen to the author of life. 

Here's how your identity was stolen, so you can recognize the thief 

when he comes for you.

Who will you tell this story to?

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