A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a credit card company. I let it go to voice mail, assuming it was a telemarketer.
When they called back the next day, they alerted me that more than $1,000 worth of merchandise had been charged to a store credit card I had not used in years. I quickly let them know that I did not approve the charges.
A few days later, I received a new credit card in the mail from a different store. The only problem was, I had not applied for a credit card. The next day, the bill arrived. More than $750 had been charged to a credit card I did not create.
I took steps to freeze my accounts, but continued to receive phone calls alerting me to fraudulent activity that had already taken place.
Someone had stolen my identity.
As I worked through the process of trying to resolve this issue, my mind was flooded with thoughts: What do you do when someone has stolen a critical piece of information that defines who you are. If there is one number that makes me unique and someone else has that number, how do I identify myself? Would I have to apply for a new social security number and start over?
Losing your identity is painful and frustrating. It makes you want to scream and punch some unknown person who has violated you in such an all-consuming way. As I worked through the process of trying to stop the thief from continuing to inflict damage on my financial life, I realized that losing my identity was a theme I’ve been wrestling with in several different ways lately.
On Sunday afternoon, my son and I drove to a university that’s about four hours from our house. It’s his top pick of colleges, and he had the opportunity to interview for a scholarship. One of the requirements for the process was that he needed to stay overnight with another student in the dorms.
We walked to the basement dorm room, skirting past rows of guys hanging out in the narrow hallway. Our guide opened the door to his host room, and we both squinted to try to see inside. The cluttered room had only a narrow path between bunk beds to the tiny couch where he would sleep surrounded by two strangers.
I thought about my two big queen-sized beds with their white comforters and fluffy pillows just down the road at the Holiday Inn Express. I bet no one would even know if he jumped in my minivan and headed back with me for the night.
But as the last presentation wrapped up, he gave me a quick hug and said, “I’ve got this mom.”
I was so proud of him. He’s legally an adult now. He’s going to be going to college soon. He doesn’t need me to swoop in and protect him from uncomfortable situations. With three of our children in high school this year, I’ve had to face the fact on a daily basis, that they can function without me. They can drive themselves. They can do their own laundry. They can cook.
While I’m still important in their lives, I feel like I’m fading into the background. My status as The Mom feels like it’s slipping away.
I feel like I’m losing part of who I am.
We’re also going through a huge moment in the life of our church, which is where I work. In a few weeks, our members will vote on whether we should merge with a much larger church. If it is approved, my role will change. My title will change. My responsibilities will change.
During the past year that I’ve been part of this conversation of what’s the best next step for our church, I’ve tried not to think about how will it impact me personally. I want to stay focused on trying to discern where God is leading our church.
As we move closer to decision day, I’ve realized how much of my identity has been wrapped around what I do. Part of my identity could change. After being in one role for nine years, I know I will need to open my hands and released the things that have been in my control.
I’m not going to try to sugar coat what it means to lose your identity in a literal sense. It completely sucks.
I have been forced in many ways to face some hard realities about what it means to shift my identity in other areas of my life.
With my kids, I wish more than anything that our family could stay just as it is forever. I wish the six of us could continue to live together in one house. I desperately long for family game nights and laughter around the dinner table to always be part of my life. I love having a house full of kids and all of their friends. I love my identity as the mom.
I’ve also realized that if I maintain my white-knuckle grip around the four of them and refuse to let them go, they won’t be able to grow and shine in their own ways. I have to release them so they can become who they are created to be. I have to become less so they can become more.
The same is true in other areas of my life.
As an “achiever,” I find worth and value in the things I accomplish in life. But I know that as I become less, God can actually do more in my life. His strength is made more powerful in my weakness. I can hold tight and try to control every situation. But when I do, I keep Him from doing the work He wants to do in me.
A few weeks ago, I had to go onto a government web site that guided me through the process of freezing my accounts and setting up an alert if anyone tried to access any of my financial information. It wasn’t fun, but it was actually not hard to work through the checklist of what I needed to do.
Dealing with my “identity issues” in other areas of my life has actually been more painful. I would love to wrap up this blog post with a nice neat ending about how I’m doing such a great job letting go of things. I would love to say I’ve been so brave, and that I’m a pro at releasing my grip. I guess I’m writing this blog post not to say that I’ve figured out how to do this well, but just to mark the moment. The reality is that I’m a work in progress.
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