I received a mystery package recently and discovered a popular appetite suppressant inside. Sprinkle this magic powder on your food, and allegedly it would cooperate with your sense of smell to curb your cravings. And here it was in my hands — a whole box of the stuff. But I didn’t order it.
Shortly thereafter I received a second package. This time it was a set of CDs: “Quick and Simple Japanese; Learn to Speak the Language in 10 Days.” With the box still in my hands, and as I wondered about it all, a third package arrived at my door. It was a box of those super-absorbent hand towels sold on late night infomercials.
Then I knew what was going on. Someone had stolen my credit card information and was having his way with my account. We have a unique 21st-century name for this type of crime: Identity theft. What a strange phrase that is; surely there is much more to personal identity than the digits on a piece of magnetic plastic. Of course, but most times we are content with the shallowness of it all, because most of us have no real sense of who we genuinely are.
See, we are made to be as Christ — as Paul put it so succinctly — “I have been crucified with Christ so I no longer exist. It is Christ who lives in and through me.” Yet, so few of us know that Christ-shaped self, the real person that Jesus would create in each of us. Instead, we have this edifice, this outer image we portray to others and protect at almost any cost. But it’s just that — a shell. We lack substance. We are just names and numbers without any real identity. We haven’t let the Christ-life be fashioned within us.
The short of it is this: We are uncrucified (if such a word exists). For when the weight of the cross, the cross that would crush and remake us, falls heavy on our shoulders, we crawl from beneath the load before it finishes its work. Yet, the forging of faith and the making of lasting Christ-centered identity is only accomplished by means of execution. By loss. By the death of the false self.
So as long as you protect what you think is yours, so long as you struggle to avoid all necessary suffering, so long as you refuse to relinquish the identity you have constructed, you will never become who Christ would make you — the real you — the you that can never be stolen.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me/.