Originally posted March 14, 2011 at Tiny Dart Frog. Republished with permission of the author.
I have a tank top that has ingeniously sewn into the hem: “I am a runner because I run” and every once in awhile when I contemplate slipping into a life of less physical dedication, I realize that would mean not identifying myself as a “runner.”
I’m the kind of person who’s not going to wear that tank top (and it’s such a great color) if it’s not true. I know it’s silly.
But that tank top hem holds a lot of truth. I am only a runner because I run. And, it’s part of who I am. To not run, would be to let go of part of my identity.
I am not a swimmer. I never have been and I do not long to be. I know swimmers. I admire them, but that discipline doesn’t click with me.
However, I have been thinking about this identity piece and how it is tied to things. I think it’s also possible to tie our identity to unhealthy things.
Running is probably not an unhealthy identity marker, at least not for me. But you know what? I also hold as part of my identity the fact that I drink copious amounts of Diet Mountain Dew.
Really. Ask anyone who knows me well. To not see me with a soda can would be, well, strange.
Sometimes I think about trying to give up my soda habit, but when I really get down to seriously thinking about removing it entirely from my life, I have to face the truth that it would mean a change in my self-understanding. And, if I’m nothing else, I’m certainly the “Mountain Dew girl.”
Besides, that would mean other people would view me differently too.
In essence, giving up my soda addiction means that part of me has to die. I’m not so sure I can do that.
So, I’ve been thinking about these identity markers: running and soda (yes, I know those hardly make sense in the same sentence), about how they are these outside agents that define parts of my life. They only are markers because I participate in them. Right?
I am a runner because I run.
I am a soda-holic because I drink too much soda.
I am a mom because I play and care for and love my three children.
I am vegetarian because I don’t eat meat products.
Good and bad identity markers. In which I do something so that I am something. But here’s the clincher.
I am a Christian. Why?
Because I did something? No.
At least this is what my theology tells me. Being able to be a Christian has very little to do with anything I’ve done. It has everything to do with what Jesus has done and is doing.
And — I believe that.
And — it’s not enough.
Because our identities as children of God should do something shouldn’t they?
I’m thinking about Jesus. His identity wasn’t as a Jew, obviously wrapped up in being a Christian, but in being the Son of God. And essentially Jesus spent his life doing heaven.
In some ways (and hopefully this doesn’t sound heretical) his identity was more “heaven come to earth” than son-ship. It may just be semantics though.
I’m wondering what it might be like to claim part of my identity as heaven. Since so much of me is probably more hellish — something would again have to die. And, as I said — I’m not sure I can do that.
I’m better at killing Jesus than letting Jesus take over my life.
I’m sorry, but I am.
And I’m a Christian. I want to have the where-with-all or gumption or whatever word you might choose to be better at being a Christian — but truth be told, for some reason I have no qualms about wearing a cross necklace and simultaneously failing at being a Christian.
Here’s the thing. I actually think I can do that because I know there’s nothing I’ve done to deserve this part of my identity. It’s the whole conferred upon me piece — the whole act of God in the cleansing waters of baptism, marked by the Holy Spirit for eternity piece.
I get to claim that as part of who I am regardless of how good I am at doing it.
I recently read someplace that the entrance exam for Christianity is admitting you’re a failure. I’ve got that down.
But it’s not just that, right? It’s admitting it and allowing God to do something with that.
I am a mom.
I am a runner.
I am a soda-holic.
I am a sinner.
I am a saint.
I am a failure.
I am a success.
I am a child of God.
Find a link to Christine Stephan’s blog Tiny Dart Frog at Lutheran Blogs.