What’s in a Screen Name?

by Kat Borba

This year I did something that was really hard for me. I changed my Instagram name. 

What a ridiculous thing to call “hard.” In the grand scheme of life and death, who cares about the name listed next to my pictures of kids and pets and sunsets? Except, for me it was something that had tethered me to Japan. It was something I hadn’t felt I could fully release. I created the account when I lived in Japan, and my Instagram name reflected the person I was in that place. “JapanKat” might not have been the cleverest of names. I’m not even sure I gave it all that much thought when I chose it. But as the years went on, it became linked to my identity. I was JapanKat. 

When we returned to the States, the thought of changing my username was too much. It would be one more severed tie to a place that still held a piece of my heart. So I kept it. I would tell myself that I’d only been gone a little while. I just wasn’t finished being JapanKat. 

But that “little while” morphed and stretched. Babies were born, and jobs were changed. We moved, and moved again. Time marched on, yet my Instagram name stayed frozen in place. Occasionally I would think, maybe it’s time for a fresh start. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Would changing my name be a betrayal of the woman who made that account? Could I be ok if I cut the last outward tie to my former home? What if God called us back?

In the midst of my questioning, God spoke a soothing word to my anxious soul. I am more than my screenname. I am more than my job. I am more than the place where I live. I am more than my past, and I am more than my future.

So after eight years, and much wrestling, I opened my account and changed my name. I’m not going to lie: it stung a little. It seems silly to share how much I agonized over what to be called now. After much internal debate, I decided on “Katerpiller.” It felt right. If I’m going to be pouring so much of my identity into a screen name, it should reflect change and growth. Tears were shed that day. They were tears of release, tears of mourning the person I thought I was, and tears of accepting the truth of who I am in Christ. 

That next Sunday at church, we sang a familiar song. But this morning, the refrain felt like it was written just for me.

I am who you say I am.

And so I am. 

I am his beloved. I am his delight. I am his daughter. I am chosen by him. 

This is true no matter where I live and no matter what I do. My identity is in God: my father who loves me, my Shepherd who leads me. 

And it is also true that I can hold Japan in my heart as a gift from God. I can treasure that chapter of my life without finding my identity in it. And maybe that’s the point I’ve been struggling to understand. I must not define myself by where I live, by my job description, or by how I serve. I am more than all of those things, because God says so. It’s not that I discount these things. I’ve been shaped and forever changed by living and serving in Japan. That experience has made me who I am. Yet, it is not who I am. The distinction is blurry and hard to hold down. I’m sure I will struggle to keep my identity where it belongs: in Christ. 

But if one day God does call us back to Japan – or to anywhere else on this earth – I hope that I go firm in the knowledge that I am not defined by where I live or what I do. No, I am a daughter of the King, and I am defined by Him only.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kathryn Borba served as a missionary in Japan for three years. Then God called her and her family to return to the States. She now lives out her calling to serve the nations through missionary support, encouragement, and education.

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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