The Stuff We Believe

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To listen to today’s reflection as a podcast, click here
Author Brett Kays points out that in Hollywood’s cinematic portrayal of reality, certain things are almost always true:
The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any room in Paris.
The ventilation system of every building, amazingly, turns out to be the perfect hiding place.
Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in just seconds – unless it’s a door to a burning building with a child trapped inside.
All bombs have timers that feature bright red LED numbers so you can conveniently know exactly when the explosion is coming.
Medieval peasants have perfect teeth.
A man will show modest discomfort when taking a ferocious beating, but wince with pain when a woman tries to clean his wounds. 
Cars that crash inevitably burst into flames.
It’s always possible to park directly outside any building you are visiting.
All grocery bags contain at least one loaf of French bread and some kind of greens sticking out the top.
No matter how outnumbered you are in a martial arts fight, your foes will patiently wait to attack you one-on-one until you have knocked out their predecessors.
When running from danger, a man will grab a woman’s hand, even though anyone who has ever tried this knows it’s faster and easier to run independently.
Sadly, the fantasies we see on the silver screen are more than matched by the illusions we often embrace about our own lives.  Henri Nouwen, the late Catholic priest and devotional writer, presented what he called the Five Lies of Identity: 

I am what I have.  

If that’s true, what happens if you fail to wrap your hands around the right car, the right house, or the right clothes?  And what happens when all of your stuff inevitably begins to slip through your fingers?  

I am what I do.

This is one of those unyielding lies at the heart of our show-me-your-resume culture.  If we buy into it, then losing a job or experiencing the end of a career can feel devastating.  Who am I now?  

I am what other people say or think of me.

Believing the verdicts of co-workers, neighbors, and those we encounter on Facebook – and even those who have pledged their love to us – is to risk surrendering our identity to people who cannot possibly know our heart of hearts. 

I am nothing more than my worst moment.

If so, then you will be tortured all your life by your biggest blunder.  You may have made a grievous mistake.  But that doesn’t mean that you, at the center of your being, are a grievous mistake.  

I am nothing less than my best moment.

At the other end of the spectrum, you are not the highlight reel of your life that you might post on social media. 

So, how can we know our true identity?  St. Francis of Assisi said it well:  “I am who I am in the sight of God.  Nothing more, nothing less.”  

And how do we know who we are in the sight of God?
If you have trusted your life to Christ, Romans 8 says that you are forgiven, and free from condemnation (vs. 1,2); that all things in your life are working together for good (v. 28); and that you cannot be separated from God’s love (vs.37-39).  God says in Philippians that he is going to finish what he has started in your life (1:6).   You are not worthless, inadequate, helpless, or hopeless, since Scripture makes it clear that you are God’s temple (I Corinthians 3:16); that you are God’s co-worker in the kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:17-21); and that you may approach God with absolute freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12).
All of this has nothing to do with how you feel right now.  It has everything to do with what God says about you right now.
Spiritual growth is the process of gradually replacing the broken ideas we’ve always assumed to be true with the Real Story about God, the world, and our own lives.
And to accept the fact that the odds are pretty good we’ll have to park at least two blocks away from our next appointment.