Identity theft is skyrocketing. Horror stories abound. Shredders are becoming as commonplace in households as toasters. Theft insurance is in demand. According to CBS news projections, “This year alone more than 500,000 Americans will be robbed of their identities… with more than $4 billion stolen in their names.” It can take years to recover.
An even bigger identity theft is happening today—targeting every woman and girl, robbing us of the labels that define us and give us meaning.
After years of being known as the wife of a successful businessman, my widowed grandmother was visibly shaken when someone addressed her on paper by her first name instead of his. Her identity had been stolen. Times do change. Three generations later, my daughter (seven at the time) thought it was hilarious when a letter arrived at our house addressed to “Mrs. Frank James.” She couldn’t believe anyone would address her Papa as “Mrs.” But Millennials have their own identity struggles.
A close friend who spent years building a strong career in church ministry was laid off, with no job prospect in sight. Another friend, after thirty years of raising kids, just entered the empty nest phase and feels lost. Their identities have been stolen.
Identity theft is a deeply personal issue for all of us. As leaders, we are not immune to the events that have us standing on solid ground one day and in quicksand the next. It only takes a phone call, a diagnosis, or a plummeting economy for our identities to be snatched away. Identity theft is also a leadership issue, for as leaders we must think through these issues for the women and girls who count on us to help them survive an identity crisis.
God has a thing or two to say about the subject of a woman’s identity. On page one of the Bible God issues a theft-proof identity card that travels with us—perfectly intact—from birth through the many seasons, demographic changes, and episodes of our stories.
When God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) he moved a woman’s identity beyond the reach of thieves. Enormous benefits come to us from those few words. Here are a few I find life giving.
Being God’s image bearer means my highest calling as a woman is to know him. I may do a lot of other things, but this one tops the list. I can’t know who I am or why I’m here without knowing the God who created me to be like himself. My mission in life is to know the God who made me and to imitate what I see in him. Nothing can take this away from me.
Being God’s image bearer means I represent God in this world. I am
his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet, his voice. Wherever I go, whatever I do—I speak and act on his behalf. People are supposed to get a sense of what God is like by rubbing shoulders with me. Everything I do matters. Nothing can take this away from me.
Being God’s image bearer means it is not possible for me to live an insignificant life. God’s image bearers are kingdom builders. He strategically stations each of us where we have kingdom work to do. Even a cup of water taken to a small child in the dead of night carries kingdom significance in God’s eyes. Nothing can take this away from me.
It may still be wise to buy a shredder and check my credit occasionally. But I never need to fear the loss of my identity, for I am God’s image bearer and my identity is grounded in him. And nothing can take that away from me.
[This article was originally published in FullFill ezine. Reprinted with permission.]
For more—much more (!)—about what God has to say about his daughters, read Half the Church This is an important global issue that impacts both women and men.