The First Lady and My Identity

This is a guest post from my father, Jim Hatch, who lives in St. Louis, MO, USA.

It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments – Jan and I were hugged by Michelle Obama.  We have a picture to prove it.  With the Secret Service agent looking over the First Lady’s shoulder at me as if I might have a weapon in my suit.

Our daughter Courtney, a US Navy wife and a nurse was asked by an Admiral on the Navy base north of Chicago to introduce Mrs. Obama at a downtown Armory.  She was to be in town to observe and celebrate the Illinois Governor’s signing legislation easing the way for military spouses to more easily transfer their  licenses  — nursing, PT, teaching, etc.— to Illinois.    And we were able to attend with Courtney, Joel and their five kids.  And meet the First Lady.

I’ve reflected on my ongoing attitude to that brief ‘proximity to greatness.’  I find it deeper than a merely objective sense of being close to someone famous.  There’s a subjective sense of impacting who I am.  There was something about that experience that touches deeply my sense of identity.  My subtle and not so subtle desire to show the picture, describe that event – it’s partly because my proximity to Mrs. Obama does something for my sense of me.  Almost as if I ride her coattails to some sense of greatness.  That identity with the First Lady even in some small way, affects how I view myself.

A friend and I talked about this and he agreed.  He remembered the complete freedom to drive a borrowed expensive BMW convertible for a day.  And how zipping along the Interstate in that particular car gave him a sense of importance, of power. In this case, not a person but a car!

It’s true of all of us.  We drop the names of folks we know, or have met or are kin to or have read.  We grasp for a sense of identity by proximity to greatness of one kind or another.

Now I find myself wondering, why do I get more gratification out of my proximity to Mrs. Obama than I do from knowing personally – and more, being personally known by – the creator of the universe, the Savior of the world, Jesus.  If I really understood the degree of my proximity to that true greatness, would it not impact my own sense of identity commensurately?

I think I know the answer.

Jim Hatch recruits church planters for Mission to North America; email him at for questions or comments.

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Chris Hatch

Seeking to love God and neighbor