For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
Alzheimer’s is a highly prevalent and very cruel illness. Affecting an estimated 5.1 million people, it causes a gradual deterioration of memory and thinking. This devastating diagnosis is particularly horrible because it robs one of identity. Lost somewhere in the fog of the illness, the person remains; however, it is as if the person’s true personality has vanished, and an imposter has moved in, taken over and stolen their identity.
Equally insidious, but obviously not as devastating, is the crime of identity theft. Identity theft is a form of stealing someone’s identity, in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity. They falsely pose as another in an attempt to steal funds, personal data or contact information. Although not comparable to the devastation of a permanent, life-altering illness, identity theft is also very cruel and wrong.
Sadly, I was a victim to this recently when someone hacked into my email account, and then posed as me in an attempt to sell a diet program to all of my contacts. Fortunately, I discovered the personal invasion rather quickly, but the damaging effects took much effort to resolve. On the outside, to my contacts, it appeared that I was the one soliciting support for a weight loss program; hidden behind this fraud, the real me had no intentions of such.
One’s recognizable identity is not just on the outside. As with Alzheimer’s, even though the person may look the same, this cruel imposter steals from within, rendering the person unrecognizable in a different way. How others know us is as much by personality as appearance and mannerisms. I have heard it said that our bodies are like the hardware, whereas our personalities, the software. Together, these characteristics and distinguishing personality traits make up what others know as us. They form our identity.
As Creator, God formed those identities. He made us uniquely us, down to the minutest of detail. A former pastor of ours once described his amazement at God’s design of even the human face. Considering the enormity of variations of distinctive human facial features, but knowing that He used the same basic parts for each – eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc.- it is a marvel as to how we all ended up different. If left to men to invent individuality from those same basic components, we would have quickly run out of creative variations. Soon, our faces would start looking alike. Our Creator, however, formed what identifies us uniquely and in amazingly varied ways.
From the idiosyncrasy of our personality types, the subtleties of our fingerprints, to the contrasts of our bodily features, everything about us is unique, yet nothing hidden that God does not know. We may be good at hiding who we really are from others, but not God. He knows us inside and out. God knows us, and values us so much that He formed us to resemble Him.
God’s original intent was for us to align with His intended purpose by identifying with Him. In the Garden, though, Satan came as an imposter and craftily stole that identity; hence, his was the original identity theft. He deceived by convincing that our identity instead be self-centered and self-determined, in essence shirking the constraints of God’s design. Since he does not care about us, as does our Creator, he usurped God’s intended purpose, and now enjoys watching the destruction his deception has wreaked on humanity. Separated from God’s original intent, we flounder instead in a state of lost identity.
Our hope of restoration lies in the fact that despite wayward identities, we are still only clay. Moreover, God is a Potter who knows what is best for the clay, and how to shape us back to what He purposed. If allowed, He takes our identity, and as with a King’s insignia, imprints His onto the clay of our hearts. Upon accepting Christ, He takes and seals us with the Holy Spirit, therein realigning our identity with Him. Then gradually, over the course of our born again life, He works us as clay by forming us more and more into His image. If allowed, God takes our identity and shapes it precisely as He intended.
When my son was very young, I made the above imprint of one each of his precious little hands and feet. When I look at it, it reminds me of that sweet time in his life. I also think about the promises God has for his life, some yet unfulfilled. Just like for my son, God’s plans for us are good and right. Only by aligning with Him, will we ever fulfill our intended destiny and realize our genuine identity.
When back to the way God designed, our feet will no longer follow paths leading to destruction, but will instead follow in the footsteps of Christ, then walk on streets of gold. Our hands, freed from worthless pursuits, will instead embrace what matters to God, and one day strum melodies of praise.
God wants our identity hidden in Him, so that by our lives reflecting His glory, others may find their way back to Him. As we grow closer to His image, it as if He tucks us gently under His loving arms and whispers, just wait! Then along with all creation in heaven, fully restored back to its original glory, He will unveil us for who we really are. Reunited to walk with Him, and the identity thief banished forever, we will finally see Him face to face, and others will know us as He does. We will be free to be who we really are. Children of God, our intended identity.