As a follow-up to this week's JOURNEY message, my intent was to post an excerpt from my book on addressing identity theft. Unfortunately, I was not able to get it posted yesterday as intended. The challenge? Thursday evening we were dealing with, not identity thieves, but actual would-be thieves (less than a month in my new place) ... but that is a topic for another day. Today we continue to focus on the some of the effects of identity theft and, more specifically, ways to start taking it back! Today's post is rather lengthy but I pray that you will find some encouragement and value in it.
Have a Blessed Day!
Have a Blessed Day!
When Storms Rage © Copyright 2009 by Zenobia Wise
ANCHOR PRINCIPLE – SEVENTEEN
Avoid Identity Theft
Do Not Become the Storm
During the writing of this book, I received notification from my mortgage company advising that I could be at risk for instances of credit fraud and even identity theft.
Somehow, they wrote, one of their employees (now a former employee) might have sold my personal information to include my name, date of birth, social security number and account information. They apologized; made arrangements for me to have alerts and monitoring put in effect with the major credit bureaus; and they were also kind enough to include with their letter a form which gave me specific instructions on how to protect my identity.
Their recommendations included appropriately destroying personal records, being careful who you give information to and ensuring that you transact business with reputable merchants who have secure operating practices. The irony of it all! Here they were giving me advice and direction on how to protect my identity when they were the ones who had compromised my information. I was livid! And I am sorry to say it was not a righteous anger.
In any event, the situation, while not ideal, did accomplish something: it caused security alerts to be put on my credit and got me thinking about what happens to an individual’s identity as a result of life’s tough moments – about the forever impact that a storm, particularly a significant one, can have on self-perception and how we are perceived by others.
Reading the book of Luke, we begin to understand how easy it is to lose one’s identity in the midst of a storm – as a result of family tradition and practice.
The first chapter of Luke spends time recounting the circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, the one who would be the forerunner for Jesus Christ. It speaks of John’s parents and their storm of hopelessness in that they were both well-advanced in age and had not yet conceived any offspring. It goes on to explain in detail the words of the angel who came to visit and the promise of God which assured that God would work on their behalf – that He would grant them a child, a son. His name would be John and the Lord would perform His promise in His timing. The account follows through all the way to the point of his birth which is where we pick up this story.
‘So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child, and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”’
From birth, the enemy is after our identity and wages additional assaults with each storm that comes our way. There are some storms that have been raging in our families since before we were born. There are many situations designed to influence other’s views of us, our view of ourselves. Tradition and generational influences would have you named after those in your family. Yet, there comes a point where the family name and the storms which have shaped the family identity need to die.
In biblical times, names represented the call, anointing and character of the person. John’s family and friends wanted him to have a family name, a familiar name – a name which would indicate his likelihood to follow in the footsteps of some relative, to do what had already been done. But God had a different plan.
They would have named him Zacharias, meaning ‘God remembers’. Not a bad name – but not the name that God had for him – John, which means ‘God is gracious’. God graced him to be identified in a way that none in his family had ever experienced. His name was an indicator of the work of grace God was about to perform through Jesus Christ – a work which would cause our sins to be remembered no more, a merciful, sacrificial act which would reconcile us to the Father.
We must be careful to discern between good ideas and God ideas. We should be leery of the titles that friends and relatives would assign to us.
· ‘He’s just like his father’
· ‘She’ll be a teacher; her mom was a teacher and her mom before her’
· ‘He’ll be a pastor’
· ‘He’s going to end up an alcoholic just like his father’
· ‘He’ll never do anything – nobody in that family has ever amounted to much’
· ‘She’ll never be a leader – she doesn’t even have a degree’
· ‘She’s going to end up on welfare just like everyone else in her family’
Not so! God, who knew us before He formed us in the womb, has a completely different and definitive view of who we are. With God all things are possible. Yet, if we are to stay anchored to the plan and purpose of God, we need to understand that we are more than what our family has experienced or who they think we are or should become. We do not have to accept, agree with or live by the limiting expectations of friends and family.
Perhaps your identity theft was not the result of family members and acquaintances inflicting their views upon you. Perhaps you have endured other storms that have battered you and left you fighting to maintain your sense of self – attacks inflicted upon you by another or those resulting from sickness, sin or poor choices.
Consider Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples and someone I think about from time to time. Here was a man who walked with Jesus and who witnessed and accomplished great exploits in his journey with the Master. He is even recorded in the book of John as willing to go to the death with Jesus. But, then came that one big storm, the storm of doubt and disbelief which was likely compounded by the certain grief he was experiencing following Jesus’ death.
Many are the familiar with the story. It had been three days since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the disciples were shut up behind closed doors when He came to them. But, Thomas was not with them and when he was told by the other disciples that they had seen Jesus, he spoke words which would haunt him forever, ‘… Unless I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (John 20:25).’
He had one failed response in the middle of the storm and it changed his identity forever. Now, I am certain that Thomas had many faith-filled moments in his life with Jesus. Yet somehow his response, during this most critical stage, forever earned him the title ‘Doubting Thomas’. He was no longer ‘Thomas, called Didymus’. He was no longer, ‘Thomas, one of the twelve disciples.’ He was not even ‘Thomas, the Twin’. His identity had been stolen in the midst of the storm.
Periodically, I wrestle with how that could happen – in part because I know in my heart that it did not have to happen. After all, Peter is not known as ‘Denying Peter’ or ‘Soldier Slicing Peter’ or even as ‘Drowning Peter’ – although he experienced all of those stumbles in his storms. He is ‘Peter, the Rock’, ‘Peter the Apostle’ and is affectionately called ‘Saint Peter’ by some.
Many prayers have been uttered from my lips, hoping that others would never identify me by one storm – or my actions in that storm. Thinking about the countless thousands who have had their identities stolen, at birth or during adulthood, my heart began to weep as I could almost hear the Lord, stating like John’s mother,
‘Not so! But he shall be called …’
‘Not so! I have called her…’
There is a name that He has prepared for us from the beginning of time and it is one that speaks to all of our purpose and the promise and plans that He has for each one of us.
BEFORE YOU WERE FORMED
If we are to protect ourselves from identity theft, we must understand that the process of moving from victim to survivor to victor rests with each one of us. It begins in the mind with an understanding of who God says that we are.
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument] …’ Jeremiah 1:5 AMP
God had an intimate knowledge of each of His creation before He ever formed us in the womb. He has a unique destiny and identity for each one of us. However, we must do what we can to embrace what God says about us and reject the numerous voices in the world which would encourage us to be everything except what God created us to be.
You are not the labels that you might have been given at birth; neither do you have to be defined by any situation which has occurred in your life since your birth. God has chosen a name for you, one which speaks to His ultimate purpose for you.
RECLAIMING YOUR IDENTITY
Perhaps that identity was stolen from you at birth like Jacob – who was named ‘Trickster’. Or perhaps it was stolen at a young age and you now identify yourself as a victim of child abuse – even though it happened twenty-two years ago. If so, God has something better for you. You are more than the total sum of your storms and their effects.
Now, perhaps you are saying to yourself, ‘But, that is not my situation. My storm was a result of an action on my part.’ Maybe you’re like Thomas today and your ‘title’ points towards one brief moment in the storm where the wind and the waves bested you. Understand you are more than that one mistake.
Refuse to allow others to define you by one storm. More importantly, refrain from characterizing yourself that way. This is something the Lord dealt with me on even as I wrote this book. In fact, I had to rewrite the introduction of this book because I had identified myself as ‘a divorced, single mother of three sons.’ Now, while the title ‘divorced single mom’ might be true as a result of the storms that have raged in my life, it is not the total sum of the person that I am.
Likewise, your situation, your storm, has no right to define you for the remainder of your days. You are not an anorexic, you are not an alcoholic, you are not just a cancer survivor, you are not a Katrina victim and you are not a ‘doubting Thomas ‘, because of one storm and instance of disbelief.
In the book of Romans, we are cautioned, ‘do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).’ Recognize that if we are going to be who God purposed us to be, there are some clear steps that we will need to take in order to renew our minds and maintain our identities:
· First – Read the Word of God to gain a better understanding of who He says that you are
· Second – Understand and tell yourself that the storm is something to get through, not something to become
· Third – Refuse labels from other people, as well as self-ascribed labels
· Fourth – Repent quickly and often, when needed. Understand that some of the stormy mistakes we make are just that – mistakes, something we have done, not who we have become
· Fifth – Actively focus on and become the person that God has purposed for you to be
There is a moment of empowerment when we realize that we have the ability to change even as our circumstances continue to challenges us. We come to the realization that we do not have to be defined by the storm. And it is at that point that the storm loses its power over us. We can stand in the midst of what seems or seemed a life threatening situation and have peace, joy and contentment – knowing who we are and Whose we are.
It starts with an understanding that you are made in the image of the Most High God – anointed to break the yokes of bondage in your own life and the lives of others. It is followed by action on your part: a mind shift, a new coat, putting down a phone, picking up a pen. It will be different for each person, but it will position you to reclaim who you are in Christ. It will enable you to become everything that He has purposed for you. You are more than a conqueror!
Take some time today to find out who God says you are and speak that name to your storm. Refuse to be defined by what has happened to you – instead be anchored in the identity which God designed for you from the beginning of time.
When Storms Rage © Copyright 2009 by Zenobia Wise
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