On my way to JFK after leaving the Mockingbird Conference I ended up on the wrong train. Not knowing that there are two trains that share a track, instead of ending up at the airport I ended up in Queens.
Standing on the platform feeling a little lost and very alone, I noticed something relevant. I noticed these men in their twenties, and some definitely in their thirties, who were what the world would definitely identify as “hoodlums” or “gangsters”. And I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness for these men, a sadness which stemmed from the idea of identity.
With what do we identify? In my world, the typical man identifies with his career, or perhaps with a hobby like hunting or fishing. But these men I saw on the subway platform don’t appear to have a career. They don’t have the money for an expensive hobby like hunting or fishing, or whatever else people tend to identify with in my world.
So what do these men identify with? Well, it appears to be wearing one’s pants too low and walking around the world in a very slow, affected way whilst blasting a certain kind of music from one’s cell phone (what ever happened to ghetto blasters?!!).
And the sad thing, from my vantage point, is the fact that we’re all mis-identifying. In striving to have an identity that we can create and control, whether it be in the world of Northwest Florida fly fishing or the world of NYC hip hop, we struggle to have something that defines us to others. I think this need to be defined stems from our need to be accepted, and this need to be accepted stems from what I believe is the real root of the problem: our very deep need to be loved.
The source of this universal and constant need for identity is the fact that quite frankly we’ve misplaced ourselves. We’re fallen creatures who have misplaced the ability to focus on what’s real–the thing that can give us real identity, real acceptance and real love. And in truth, this is the one thing that can fill the hole in us that we’re trying so desperately to fill with these other things.
The apostle John summed up for us the identity of this real thing in three simple words: “God is love.” This is a simple yet profound little sentence, and unfolding the implications of it explains why our true identity must be found in God: it’s because only God’s love is unconditional in a way that loves us no matter what, even when we’re looking in the wrong direction.
All human love, ever, comes with conditions no matter how small. Only God’s unconditional love could conceive a plan that would save us by sending his son to die in our place. I love all of you as my brothers and sisters in Christ, but as the father of a son whom I adore I just can’t conceive of a love like this. None of us can. All we can do is accept it.
And in accepting this love we are accepted as God’s own, and our identity then comes from that being accepted, along with the love we so desperately need. As I see it, this is what Mockingbird speaks of that the world is seeking yet not finding. This is the lost lane-end into Heaven. This is what’s real.