We have two options in which to find our identity, Pastor Jason said at church on Sunday morning. Only two.
The first is to find life in yourself – make a name for yourself, constantly do more and more to live up to it, and manage how other people view you. The other option is to find your life not in the identity you’ve created, but in Christ – receiving what Christ has done for us and finding our identity in that gracious act.
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Those brothers smeared that cloak in blood and gave it to their father after they sold Joseph to Egyptian slave traders. In Egypt, Potipher’s wife tore away another cloak of Joseph’s and kept it as evidence of a crime Joseph didn’t commit. Later Joseph’s brothers tore their clothes in anguish when they visited him in Egypt, and Joseph forgave their treachery and gave brand new clothes to the very men who took his away.
The clothes we wear (or don’t wear) say a lot about who we are and what we have done.
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To catch a glimpse of stardom, Alex and I each paid $6 to attend a high school football game this past Friday night. The game, in addition to being Cretin Durham Hall’s homecoming game, merited the presence of ESPN because one of CDH’s defensive players is currently the top-scouted junior in the country. We, along with hoardes of parents and curious fans, sat in the University of St. Thomas bleachers on a chilly fall night to watch number 16 do his thing.
We went to see football. What we saw turned out to be well worth the price of admission.
A sea of high schoolers
Walking in a sea of high schoolers as we headed into the stadium to get a seat, we were surrounded in chatter, laughter, shrieks. Half of the crowd purple and yellow, half red. Girls with shiny hair and skin-tight leggings. Boys with baseball caps and pop cans.
I could feel the insecurity and the excitement exuding from their pores. Sure, their teams were tonight’s stars, but really, this whole night was their night. They were the stars too, proud, nervous, on display. They came decked out, they came looking for their crushes, they came to cheer and they came to be seen.
As a collective whole, they all looked very much like each other: embodying this universal teenage identity, and I reflected on the way we all dress to match something – our team, our idol, our idea of who we think it would be just about perfect to be.
A standout star who could be anybody
Alex and I, not belonging to a student section, and for lack of a better place to belong, sat in the middle of the Stillwater parents’ section, where we stuck out like sore thumbs in our Gophers shirts and looked too old to be high schoolers but too young to be anybody’s parents.
We watched the star like hawks. Everyone around us did.
I watched this kid sort of gallop around the field in his jersey, knocking people down from time to time. Alex told me this junior has dozens of college offers. The majority of the Big Ten schools want to call him theirs, put their helmet on his head and put their jersey on his back.
He could choose from a sea of identities. He could be any of them. An amazing, overwhelming thought, really.
A fourth-quarter surprise
During a timeout, the teams talked, the crowds chattered, and I think I was checking my phone, maybe.
Then a normal moment turned into a something-is-happening-moment, and the stadium erupted in sudden cheers. Parents in front of us stood up to see. People were pointing. What was going on?
On the field, hurtling full speed away from the stands in speedy triumph, was a naked male streaker.
(When I told my sister this story on the phone, she reminded me that “naked streaker” is redundant. However, I would like to point out that the adjective “naked” is necessary in order to emphasize the important details of the described situation. THIS GUY WAS NAKED AND THAT IS NOT NORMAL.)
Arms raised high into the air, his legs pumping, and all we could see (thankfully) was the back of his head and a faraway view of his bare behind. The security guys tried to catch him, but he leapt over a fence and bounded off into the night.
The crowd went wild. I’m telling you, parents, students, everybody. The Stillwater side, apparently the proud family of this fast fellow, was beside themselves with joy at what had just been accomplished. There was no outrage or shock.
There was only victory.
Of course MY first reaction was what the heck, nobody seems concerned that this kid could get convicted of a crime and oh my gosh, that was public nudity, does nobody care about decency anymore?
But then it all came together for me.
This kid might have just broken the law. But seen in a different light, this kid’s courage marked him as not only a hero, but as an ironic, hilarious, and strikingly deep picture of owning our true identity. The bravery of this high schooler to own his own skin, to bolt onto the painfully public playing ground in a moment of pause, to make himself so vulnerable and so apparent, to run so straight and so clearly in the purest form of his identity, rejecting all clothing that would hide him or make him appear to be something he was not – it was freaking courageous.
In Christ, we can be who we truly are because we don’t put on our identity like we put on a football jersey or a colorful coat. Instead, we can be genuine. We can be the new creations Christ has made us to be, relaxing, quitting whatever spectacle we used to perform because we rely on someone else’s identity other than ours: Christ’s.
When I noted this rather quirky and unexpected symbolism lived out right in front of my eyes in the most unexpected of ways, I had to grin and cheer, too.