noun ( pl. -ties)
1 the fact of being who or what a person or thing is…
2 the characteristics determining this…
Identity. What is it…really?
We all have an identity – a system of determining, in part, who we are.
But where do we find our identity?
A few weeks ago I was watching the show, Pawn Stars, on television. The show is relatively new to me and has no story line. Instead, it’s a “reality” television show which documents one of the largest and most famous pawn shops in Las Vegas. The premise of the show is really to learn about how things are either sold, pawned or traded for. They have some pretty crazy things that cross their counters.
During the course of the Pawn Stars episode that I was watching a man came into their shop with a vintage Rolex. While the Rolex in and of itself was pretty cool, the back-story is what gave the expensive watch it’s identity and is where I was really first introduced to the “Ponzi” scheme. According to the owner of the watch, he had purchased the Rolex at an estate auction and was interested in the watch because it belonged to a man named Charles Ponzi.
Ponzi was an immigrant from Lugo, Italy who made his way on to the scene in November of 1903 when he made his way to Boston from Italy. Once in Boston Ponzi bounced from job to job before being arrested for check fraud. This arrest would prove to be the beginning of a life in crime. Ponzi would be released from prison 3-years later and would eventually father the most massive scheme of his time (now known as the Ponzi scheme).
Charles Ponzi began buying and selling IRC (International Reply Coupons) from country to country making a profit on the excess in the cost of stamps from one county to the next. It wasn’t long before Ponzi had asked friends and peers to invest. Within a short amount of time Ponzi had no longer dealt in IRC’s, but was making money off of people subsequent investments and was robbing Peter to pay Paul. In all Ponzi schemed people out of better than $7 million dollars of their investment money, a figure that is unlike any other when you consider that this all took place in the 1920’s.
After many rumors and much speculation accompanied by a State investigation, Ponzi’s scheme came crashing down. As a direct result, five banks went under and people whom had invested their entire life savings received less than 30 cents for every dollar they had invested, if they received anything at all.
Charles Ponzi would go on to serve several more years in prison before eventually being released and deported back to Italy where he continued in his scheming ways. Ponzi died alone, penniless and severely handicapped at a mercy hospital in Brazil in 1949 at the age of 66.
What a legacy?!
To be remembered for centuries as the father of lies and reckless money fraud. This man, Ponzi, had successfully conned thousands of men, women and children out of their life savings and he did it for his own personal gain.
Where did it get him?
Anyway. Enough of the history lesson. That was a pretty big rabbit trail, but it’s not often that I find myself sounding educated and so I thought I would capitalize on it by sharing what I had learned. (written with a smirk of sarcasm)
The point in all of this is that I’m sure there are several things that made up Charles Ponzi – his family heritage, his childhood experiences, his wife, etc. While all of these things, no doubt, were a part of who he was, his identity was found in how he lived his life…his legacy.
This question surrounding Ponzi’s identity has left me considering how each of us has an identity. Each one of us is a bi-product of our environments and experiences; a culmination of personality traits, characteristics and life experiences. Our identity is much more than what we simply see on the surface. It goes deeper than that. It goes below the surface.
All of this has begged the question for me, Who Am I?
I am in the process of doing an “internal audit” in which I am asking some pretty tough questions. I have also enrolled the help of some very trusted and honest friends to help me in discovering and better understanding who I am. What I’ve found has been good for me in many ways. There have been so many wonderful things said of me. That said, there have also been some very sobering and at times, painful, things that I have had to come to terms with; the things below the surface that can go un-noticed.
So here’s where I’m at…
I desire to find my identity in Christ.
Jesus tells his disciples and other onlookers a parable of a vine and branches in an effort to communicate the importance of living our lives in Christ. Here’s what Jesus said:
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-4)
While many people will spend their lives trying to create their identity, buy their identity or work their way into their identity, Jesus calls me, as a believer, to something very different. My identity in Christ cannot be bought, but was purchased with a price. My identity in Christ cannot be earned, but is a free gift of grace. My identity in Christ cannot be sold, bartered for or pawned. It is a lifestyle. A lifestyle.
So I am left with the hope of a Father who loves me so much that He gave His Son for me, paid the price for me and calls me according to His good measure. My identity is in my response. I get to live every day of my life living in the presence of the Father while actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit whom He has given me. It’s a process to say the least. It is not something that I can go alone, and it can only be achieved through the help of the Spirit.
Here’s the bottom line…
Regardless of my past, my mistakes, my family history or origin, my employment status or how popular I was in high school, I am a child of God and my identity is found in Him.
In the book of Genesis we are introduced to the concept that God has created each one of us in His image. Can you imagine? You? Created in God’s image. Me? Created in God’s image. Male and female alike, we were created in the image of God. That’s the identity that is available for everyone who would believe and call on the name of Christ. That is the identity that we can walk in.
Anyway, this is just something that I have been processing lately.
Thanks for being a part of my process!