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 firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or comments.