Sunday, November 21, 2010

A new identity

Today's message in church came from the book of Genesis, specifically the 35th chapter, when God changed name of "Jacob" (roughly translated "slick") to "Israel" (one who strives with God). The idea, of course, is that a person's identity is transformed when he or she meets God.

I understand the concept -- and not just because I've been an evangelical Christian for 31 years.

Indeed, the first time that I recall that happening to me was in 1974.

That year, when I was in seventh grade, I transferred from a Christian academy, where I was being bullied regularly and had major issues with that teacher, to a Catholic school. For a number of reasons which I won't get into, that turned into an excellent move, both in the short- and long-term. The short-term was that I was away from him, whom my parents and I all knew hated me.

The long term: The Catholic school offered two things the Christian school didn't -- music and sports programs, both of which not only benefited me immensely but also helped to change my identity.

That fall, I started doing something I'd always wanted to do since I was six years old: Play the saxophone. (And, of course, except for my college days, I've never stopped, getting more serious about it in the late 1990s.)

The other was connected to playing basketball, as one of the cheerleaders had asked me for a one-syllable name to use during cheers. You see, my legal name is Derrick, which back then was somewhat synonymous with "a problem to be solved"; I later became "Rick" and still use that name today, even professionally.

But that's the way God often works -- He brings out vital things that were always there but that we weren't even aware of. And, if we let him, He also will you away from that which would destroy you. Praise be to Him.

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