I was tasked with replacing a battery in a tiny electronic device. Opening it, I pulled out old power cells, copied down their model number, and a quick search for them on the website of our local hardware store. Drats! There was no such thing in their inventory.
Since I’ve played this game many times before, I turned to Google to see if they were known by other model numbers. Huzzah! I was correct. What I had identified as “G13-A” microcells turned out to have at least 5 other identities. Some of these depended on the manufacturer, others on different world standards and organizations overseeing how things are named.
Charged up with this new information, I returned to my virtual hardware store and tried several searches with each of the different nomenclatures until I found the right product. Huzzah! I found the replacement batteries I needed. Drats! The shop informed me that they were out of stock! Huzzah, again! The clerk found a different version of the batteries, and before you know it, I had replaced the old ones and brought the device back to life. Double “Huzzah!”
You know me as Pastor John. Or maybe Reverend John. Or John. Some folks call me PJ, short for Pastor John, if you’re anyone but my daughter, Anna, for whom it means “Papa John”. The government knows me as John Anthony Giurin. My original birth-certificate has me down as Giannantonio Giurin. I’ve even been known as “Giuseppe Falegname”.
You get the point. I, like many others, have more than one way we’re identified, variations on our names or the way people refer to us, depending on the context in which we find ourselves, our relationship and our degree of comfort and familiarity. In professional settings, I’m “The Reverend John A. Giurin”. My friends just call me “John”.
While the name or identifier we or others use might change, our essence does not. While different contexts may call on us to refer to different aspects of ourselves, we don’t change; we simply present a specific view to meet a specific need. As a result, folks see us differently, depending on where or why we interact; yet if we saw each other in different places or contexts, we would gain a deeper insight into each other. We are, after all, complex beings who exist in a complex relationship to one another and to our world.
The only one who knows us more fully and completely than ourselves is the one in whose image we are made. God knows our true selves no matter what we call ourselves or what situation in which we reveal ourselves. God knows our strengths and weakness, hopes and dreams why we succeed and why we fail. The amazing thing about God’s knowledge of our true identity, is that each of us is known as a child of God whatever we may call ourselves. Huzzah!
Published previously, May 9, as part of my weekly “Thoughts” for my congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Coldwater.