A fun story of identity impersonation. But then, are we really who we project or want to be? Do we know or remember who we really are? ◊
I once was on a business trip to Southern California and had spent the day offsite before returning in the late afternoon to the Anaheim Hilton Hotel. After being dropped off in front of the hotel, I noticed that I was walking on a red carpet and that there was a lot of commotion and over 100 people on either side of the hotel entrance cordoned off by ropes and security guards.
I quickly realized what was going on.
It was the day before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game held that year at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. This was a time before the league conducted the popular Home Run Derby and other activities the day before the big game. At that time all the current and past veteran players arrived in town the day before. Apparently, the Anaheim Hilton was where all the All-Star players and Old-Timers were staying.
I immediately spotted the great Hall of Fame player Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox standing at the entrance and waving to the crowd. About 20 feet behind him on the red carpet was Kevin Mitchell of the San Francisco Giants who was apparently returning from a day at Disneyland with his mother. The crowd was cheering and reaching out seeking autographs with pads and pens and souvenirs.
So, you had Carl Yastrzenski, then 20 feet behind him you had Kevin Mitchell, and then 20 feet behind him you had…me. I was wearing an open-collar shirt and a sport coat and carrying a light overnight bag. I starting hearing people yell out “Who are You?” “Who are you?”
Now put yourself in that situation. What would you say?
To this day I don’t know what possessed me to blurt out without hesitation that I was “Tito Fuentes!”
Perhaps it was the Dodger fan in me that knew all the current and veteran players in the league and knew that Tito Fuentes, although an ex-Giant player, was probably obscure enough to not necessarily be recognized. I don’t even look like him. (See his picture above.) He was about 7 years out of the league by then but any California baseball fan would be familiar with his name from the great LA Dodger-SF Giant rivalry.
The crowd bought it.
As I walked to the hotel entrance I smiled and waved to the crowd who were now cheering and yelling out in unison “Tito!” “Tito!” “Tito!” I comfort myself today with the fact that I had the moral integrity to not sign any autographs. When I got to the hotel front door entrance, Yastrzemski was just standing there looking at me. He was laughing heartily while shaking his head and saying, “I can’t believe you just did that!”
Who Are We Really?
I was reminded this week of my great Tito identity impersonation incident while reading a book that calls out men who have buried or lost or forgotten their true identity in this world. To do so actually can have sad, unfortunate, even tragic consequences. Kenny Luck has written an insightful book, Dangerous Good, which challenges men to move out of passivity and complacency, confronted and reminded by the Spirit of God, to a risk-filled and faith-stretching calling as sons of the King in a kingdom that needs us as we really are in our true identity.1
He cites the Disney film, The Lion King, and the character Simba as a “lost lion.” Simba is a lion cub, the son of a king: a clear bloodline, a clear connection to a clear destiny. While he will someday take his father’s place, he has “lost his way” in terms of his identity.2 Simba grows into a young lion separated literally from his “pride” kingdom which is suffering in the absence of a good leader.
Like many men in life, young and old, Simba is not doing what he’s supposed to be doing. Not in terms of a vocation, but rather in terms of stepping into the role of his true identify. He’s the son of the king! He’s forgotten who he really is.
“You don’t even know who you are!…You’re Mufasa’s boy.” – Rafiki to Simba, The Lion King
Luck points out that The Lion King is a parable in the tradition of Jesus’ parables, which ominously and accurately confront people where they are with who they are. Today, he notes, the world is full of “Simbas” – sons of the King in the prime of their lives – who are hiding or lost or uninformed about who they really are and were created to be. They are being chased down and confronted out their lost-ness by the Holy Spirit who whispers to them saying,
“I know who you really are. The Kingdom calls. Lives are at stake, evil must be confronted, and you are the one who’s going to do it.3
A New Calling
Many of us men think we know who we are or will be. Some of us pretend to be someone else or something we are not. We might rebel or get lost and off track when we leave home or go to college or come under the tutelage of even well-meaning advisers, teachers, and friends who themselves are walking blind and out of sync with the King and the Kingdom. They just don’t know it.
Others just want easy approval of the world around them and so passively settle into what becomes actually a prodigal son’s life of true unfulfilled promise and missed opportunity. Still others may think they are “all in” and good Christian men, but in fact are complacent and lukewarm and no real challenge to any real threat in the real Kingdom in which they say they operate.
The good news is that any of us can return home, to Jesus, our Father/King, who eagerly waits and welcomes us back. There is no condemnation, only missed time. But even that can be turned around with a new heart redirected in identity and purpose, fully activated, and dangerously good.
Do you know who you really are?
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12
1 Dangerous Good – The Coming Revolution of Men Who Care, by Kenny Luck, NavPress, 2018.
2 Ibid., p. 1.
3 Ibid., p. 2.