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May 15, 2023 8:00 pm
In 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton declared himself Emperor of the United States. Norton had made—and lost—his fortune in San Francisco shipping, but he wanted a new identity: America’s first emperor. When the San Francisco Evening Bulletin printed “Emperor” Norton’s announcement, most readers laughed. Norton made pronouncements aimed at correcting society’s ills, printed his own currency, and even wrote letters to Queen Victoria asking her to marry him and unite their kingdoms. He wore royal military uniforms designed by local tailors. One observer said Norton looked “every inch a king.” But of course, he wasn’t an emperor. We don’t get to make up who we are.
Many of us spend years searching for who we are and wondering what value we possess. Where do I belong? We flail, trying to name or define ourselves, when only God can truly tell us the truth about who we are. And, thankfully, He calls us His sons and daughters when we receive salvation in His Son Jesus. “Yet to all who did receive him,” John writes, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). And this identity is purely a gift. We are His beloved “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision . . . but born of God” (v. 13).
God gives us our name and our identity in Christ. We can stop striving and comparing ourselves to others, because He tells us who we are.