by Joanie Butman

I’ve had the privilege of spending a chunk of the winter surrounded by FIPs, or so they call themselves. FIP stands for Formerly Important People, though they use this acronym tongue-in-cheek. Sadly, for many, there is an element of truth behind that moniker that can’t be denied. Whether we are in the business world or raising children, don’t we all derive much of our identity from what we do, who we know, what school we went to, or how much success we’ve had – or not – monetary or otherwise? This thinking leads to an identity crisis when that purpose or connection is gone, whether it’s through the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of social position, retirement from a corporation or the inevitable culmination of raising young children.

Some losses are simply the result of what happens when life gets ‘lifey’: people die, dreams crumble, health fails, companies downsize, the economy goes south. Other times, either by choice or age, we simply move into another phase of life. Yes, many remain on boards to stay involved in business on some level, and no one ever actually retires from parenting as much as our kids might wish we would. Still, our role in their lives is dramatically different than when we were responsible for their every need. Inevitably, our varied purposes in life are constantly changing according to our availability, along with our physical and mental abilities.

When I first heard the term FIP, I had to inquire as to its meaning. I looked it up on the internet and immediately knew the definition I discovered was NOT the intent of my new acquaintance, though I could definitely see him being a potential candidate. According to the internet, an FIP is a &@!*g Irritating Person (or People). I chuckled because I think we could all fall into that category at times. However, given the context of Formerly Important People, it made me sad that anyone would choose to define themselves in such a manner. We’re all valuable in God’s eyes regardless of our age, position or even disposition. There's no doubt the world hosts an abundance of FIPs as described on the internet - myself included. Blessedly, in God’s world there are only VIPs because He takes our irritating tendencies and transforms them with His grace. It’s a divine transaction that can’t be explained - just experienced.

The season of Lent is an excellent reminder of our VIP status as children of God. Christ’s passion is a glaring reminder of just how important we are in God’s eyes – so important that He sent His Son to sacrifice His life for us. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, our identity is solidified. As He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Our VIP position in God’s family is our birthright, our inheritance. It defies every demographic, economic and geographic boundary. We don’t have to earn it. His invitation is freely given to all who choose to accept it. Keep in mind though that God is a stickler for etiquette. He won’t go where He isn’t invited, and He won’t stay where He isn’t welcome.

I think at our core everyone longs to be recognized and loved for who they are, not for what they have or haven’t done. We are VIPs because of whose we are. God loves us just because we’re His. We don’t need to prove anything or provide anything (other than our time and attention). Just being His is all the reason He will ever need. How can anyone choose to resist such a love? It is more enticing than anything the world has to offer.

Instead of giving up something for Lent this year (if you are so inclined), perhaps choosing to fully embrace our identity as beloved children of God would be a better use of our time. Why not sacrifice all our efforts to earn the grace that He so freely offers? Giving up peanut M&Ms isn’t going to bring me closer to God though it clearly works for others. However, forcing myself to be still and sit in silence, allowing His love to wash over me and the truth of my VIP status to saturate my soul, satisfies any craving the world tempts me with, whether it be M&Ms, a glass of chardonnay, or worldly position and status.

On what or whom do you derive your identity?

In Christ Alone
(Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend)

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand