Last week I sat at a conference table with the new chief of police in one of our neighboring suburbs. With us were other pastors and spiritual leaders from the community invited by the department to offer help to the officers. To the best of my knowledge, the chief does not know our Lord, but what she said next grabbed my attention for Christian reasons.
“The over-identification of officers with their job leads to vulnerability. The identification adds to their value as a human being, but what happens when that’s taken away, then what? Should they fail at their jobs, then what?”
By “over-identification” she means the officer looks in the mirror and sees first a cop. By “over-identification” she means the officer does nearly anything to promote the reality of being a cop to the exclusion of other responsibilities. By “over-identification” she means the officer will do what is necessary to protect the identity against any threat that would take the identity away. By “over-identification” she means the officer rejects any other identity as superior to the identity displayed by uniform and badge.
The chief’s observations must not be limited to the officers under her command.
Can you see the vulnerability for a man whose identity over the last 40 years has been in his job? Who is he when he no longer gets behind the wheel, stares at the monitor, reads a blueprint, or executes a plan? He ponders, “What value do I have for the remaining years of my life?”
What happens if the young or middle-age man fails in his career either through his own mistakes or the company’s demise? Is anyone surprised when he blurts out, “What am I going to do now? This is the only thing I know how to do!”
Can you see the vulnerability of a woman or man who is a spouse or parent who suddenly and tragically loses a mate or a child?
Can you see the vulnerability of a young athlete, vibrant, strong, and skilled, whose world is rocked by a devastating injury, a family move that takes him away from his school and teammates, or a new coach who doesn’t see his importance to the team like the previous coach did?
Can you see your own vulnerability in how you identify yourself?
Like the chief said, in each scenario the identification adds to the perceived value of life for every person. Because the identification resides in something temporal and finite, the identification can never deliver the hoped for satisfaction, and the identification will, at some future point, abruptly cease.
As the chief asked, “What then?”
For any human being how we choose to identify ourselves leads to extreme vulnerability, with one outstanding exception. You are a Christian, and, therefore, you have a choice to identify with something, someone eternal and infinite.
Over and again, the New Testament declares Christians are “in Christ.” The phrase affirms identity, teaching us our primary identity – who we are – is Christian. For example, “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah” (Ephesians 2:13).
Fight back against the thinking that sees identification in title, status, accomplishment, or reputation. These are finite; they cannot deliver what you seek. These are temporal; any satifaction exists on a timeline with an abrupt end. Instead, find your primary ID in Christ.
When you identify first as a Christian, you eliminate vulnerability inherent to our world. No matter what is taken away from you, your identification in Christ can never be stripped from you. His work done for you will never abate. His love for you will never diminish. His promise to bring you to himself will be fulfilled. This is your primary identity – you are a Christian.
When you look in the mirror, look past the wearied face and troubled eyes and see first a follower of Jesus. No matter what the day, week, month, or year brings, who you are in Christ will remain.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.