Identity Crisis


It all took some sorting out. My Indonesian friend kept going on and on about some mutual friend of ours who is sick. I kept smiling, nodding, trying to figure it out, feeling stupid. But I didn’t recognize the name.

And then I realized she was calling our friend by one of the three different names she goes by.

I call my friend by the one her parents gave her. She also goes by her husband’s name. Or she could go by her firstborn child’s name.

In this culture, I’d be Ibu Rebecca, or Ibu Brad or Mama Evan. And that doesn’t include the many names I’ve been called when my American names aren’t understood. Ibu Radeka, Bule (white person), and even the all-too-often “Mister.” As in “Hello, Mister!” or “I love you, Mister!”

Those don’t include the identities I’ve experienced over the eight years of living in Indonesia. Sometimes I’m the One Who Gives. Many times I’m the One Who Receives. Often, I’m the Confused Lady with Frizzy Hair and Sweat Dripping Off Her Face.

Rebecca with two of her children and some of the kids from the local orphanage during a visit to the MAF hanger.

Rebecca with two of her children and some of the kids from the local orphanage during a visit to the MAF hanger.

These days, I’m the Sleep-deprived Mom with Her Head Barely Above Water.

And pretty soon when I start my furlough, I’ll be the Displaced American Who Has No Idea How to Check Out at the Grocery Store.

Sometimes all the roles take some sorting out. Like when the Mom identity consumes all my energy and efforts for the day and the other roles of Neighbor or Friend fall by the side. Or when the slow Internet keeps me from being an active Daughter or Sister to my family back in the States.

But my favorite times are when they all kind of mesh. When the Indonesian friend sees the Mom and Wife in me and I know what she really wants is the Him in me. Or when the Friend in me becomes an example to my kids on how to live as a Stranger in another world.

And the best one yet? When the One Who Wants to Pour Her Life Out gets to live daily as the One Filled Up on His Love.

1 Comment

  • Jim Manley Jim Manley says:

    Know what you mean. On furloughs I bounced between seeing myself as a pilot temporarily away from the airplane, a missionary temporarily away from the field, a fund raiser, a dad, a husband, a logistic planner, a speaker, a program manager away on furlough but still available via email, and a program manager temporarily away from the office part of who’s “head” was still there. I realized finally that while we humans are a confused, fickle lot, our one true identity in Christ is neither temporary, nor variable, but constant. Forever.

    Thanks for the reminder. I needed that.

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