'Are you here for the children's lunch orders?' the receptionist asked.
I looked quizzically at her, and she repeated her question.
'No, I'm a reporter from the local newspaper, I'm here for a story' I mumbled, wondering what my presence had to do with the school children's lunch orders.
And for some reason, I was suddenly conscious of my clothes—a blouse and a pencil skirt from one of the chain shops in the mall, purchased with what little budget I had as a fresh university graduate.
'Oh, I thought you were from the takeaway shop, I'm so sorry' she said, flustered.
And it dawned on me, because of my Asian looks she had assumed I was from the Chinese takeaway shop down the road, and I was there to pick up the students' orders in time for a round of fried, crispy won tons to be delivered by lunch.
I cringed on the inside, but managed to recover myself in time, and assured her it was not a big deal.
While it was only a simple mistake, the whole 'who am I?' question started to rear its ugly head. I mulled and pondered on it as I drove back to the office after the interview.
I fingered my business card: 'Michele Ong, Reporter', not 'Michele Ong, the maker of won tons'. It was so comforting to just look at the word 'reporter', printed in bold beneath my newspaper's masthead. For me, it symbolised a breaking away from the traditional career paths—lawyer, doctor, accountant, engineer—most Asian parents encourage their children to pursue.
I was fortunate to be awarded a journalism scholarship with a news organisation, and it included paid tuition fees and two years of work with one of its mastheads.
The little incident with the receptionist struck me with a case of Identity Crisis-it is. I was questioning everything from the colour of my hair to my ethnicity.
'I'm sure if I had blonde hair and blue-eyes she wouldn't have asked me if I was from the won ton shop' I grumbled.
However, I soon realised the reason I felt indignant at being mistaken for a won ton chef, and not a reporter, was because I had placed my self-worth and value on my job title.
But my identity does not stem from what I do for a job, my socio-economic background, or which high school I attended. No, my self-worth and identity comes from who I am in Christ.
What does God say about you?
We try to wrap our identity around a job title, or a position, as a way to differentiate us from the crowd. 'Michele Ong, reporter' showed I was a wordsmith, with a penchant for spotting a news story a mile away.
We are often tempted to attach our name next to prestigious sounding roles because the world would often only hold us in high-regard if we are popular, famous, or busy achieving something incredible.
However, God is unfazed with our status, wealth, and fame. Regardless of our standing in society, each of us was fearfully and lovingly made by God (Psalm chapter 139, verse 14). You are a unique and amazing creation made in the image of the Almighty God.
In the words of Dr Seuss: 'Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You'.
In fact, God loves you so, so much He had his Son, Jesus, die for you (John chapter 3, verse 16).
A rock solid identity in Christ
When we choose to trust in Jesus we can be assured that our identity comes from Him. Even the Apostle Paul called all his achievements 'dung' in comparison to his identity in Christ.
This was beautifully summed up by the late Charles Colson—former Special Counsel to American President Richard Nixon—who was served a prison sentence after the infamous Watergate saga.
In one sense, I had lost everything—power, prestige, freedom, even my identity. In the summer of 1974, as a prisoner number 23226 at the Maxwell Federal Prison Camp, I stared at the screen of a small black-and-white television set. Along with the rest of the country, I watched as President Richard Nixon, whom I had served faithfully for three and a half years, resigned his office. It was one of the most desolate experiences of my life. But in another sense, I had found everything, all that really matters: a personal relationship with the living God. My life had been dramatically transformed by Jesus Christ.
When we trust in Jesus we will not find ourselves knocked back with a bout of Identity Crisis-itis when we lose our jobs, or when the world has moved on to its next superstar. We will find ourselves in him.
Michele Ong is a former regional news journalist with a passion to be a voice for the marginalised and disenfranchised. Writing is as essential to her as breathing, and believes words contain life which is to be used to inspire, inform, and influence readers. Michele attends Auckland's City Impact Church with her family on the North Shore.
Michele Ong's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michele-ong.html