Saturday, February 23, 2008
If you followed college football a few years back, you might have seen Reggie Bush in his heyday at USC, playing running back, scoring touchdowns, and sporting the area code 619 on his eye black in tribute to the area of San Diego he called home.
It looks like he might have started something.
There's a trend emerging to decorate the back window of a car with a decal of the outline of a state map, so the driver can make clear to everyone on the road that he/she is from Georgia, Louisiana, California, etc., just to name a few I've seen in recent weeks. The other main feature of this trendy decoration is to add numeric decals of the telephone area code in which the driver lives or used to live.
For instance, a vehicle I've seen a time or two here in Killeen features an outline of California, with 213 on one side and 310 on the other. I am guessing the driver is from the 213 area code of Los Angeles, while perhaps a significant other came from the 310 area code.
It got me to wondering whether I could recall the area codes from the places where I've lived: (254, 806, 325, 915, 503, 714, 213). That goes back to 1980. Beyond that, I would need some help.
It also got me to thinking about identity, and how important it is for people to know where they belong and who they belong to. People want to be part of something. People want to be part of a group. People want to identify with something larger than themselves.
How else to explain an emotional attachment to an area code? It's three random digits, of no significance in their origin, shared by thousands, if not millions, of people, complete strangers to one another, who will never be involved in each other's lives. Yet, those digits have become, to some people, a symbol of pride and belonging. Yes, possibly just another gang-related attempt at intimidation, but for many people such as Reggie Bush, a way of saying, "Whether or not I'm there right now, that is the place I call home."
What does this say about people today? How could something as insignificant as an area code become an object of emotional identity for people?
There are probably many answers to that question, but another question is actually more important: Do Christians understand that, in Christ, they have all the identity they could ever need?
"The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." (Acts 11:26) Such a simple term; such a powerful statement of identity. Besides the salvation of the soul, every human need for belonging is fulfilled in wearing the name of Christ and being a part of His body.
We all have sources of pride and belonging in our lives. Who isn't proud of their country? Their alma mater? Their hometown? Their family tree? The question is not whether we take pride in these things. The question is whether we keep them in perspective, and what our main source of identity is. If you had to clear everything else off the table, and identify yourself with only one word, what would it be?
Area codes. Regions. Homes. Careers. Vehicles. Schools. Skin colors. Nationalities. Languages. Sports teams. Music. Hobbies.
All these things and more are neutral in and of themselves, but if allowed to, are capable of becoming a person's identity, separating people from each other, and most of all, from God. Why would anyone allow any of these things to define himself, when there is an open opportunity to define oneself in being a child of God?
And, why would any child of God elevate some other form of identity, when he is already wearing the name of Christ?