I AM ….. Andre, an Educator, a Caucasian male, a husband, a father, a counselor, a pastor, an exercise fanatic, a shame-breaker, a creative, an INFJ … the list can go on and on.
Why do we need to give ourselves titles and define our identities? What effect can they have on ourselves and others?
In Exodus 3, Moses had that enlightening moment with God, when he heard God speaking audibly from a burning bush. In his attempts to fathom the mission God had called him to, Moses was perplexed that he should go back to Egypt (where he was a wanted man for murder), ask Pharoah to release the Israelites (Pharoah’s cheap labour force), and gather the Israelite nation (his people that were not too accepting and embracing of him), and lead them out of Egypt. In, what I would consider sheer frustration at the thought of how he could garner the favour of Pharoah and the Israelites, Moses asks God, ‘who should I say, has sent me.’
To his surprise, God responds by saying, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3: 14). Moses responds obediently to God’s commission, and after some confrontations with Pharoah and regular moments of needing to assure the Israelites that God’s plan would prosper, he leads them out of Egypt. As the ‘I AM who I AM’, guided Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt in miraculous ways, one of the most significant things that happened was that they found their identity as a nation in the desert and eventually overcame and inhabited the promised land.
While counselling, I find too many people carelessly using the phrase ‘I am a/n…’. The consequences of some of these statements have been very destructive. ‘I am unwanted’, ‘I am stupid … owed … unworthy … insignificant … a genius … flawed … demon-possessed … powerful etc.’ Part of the reason for this, I believe, is because only God has the right to say He is the ‘I AM’. When we dare to make a judgement about ourselves and label ourselves I am …’, we are taking His role, and this is very dangerous. In Romans 9:19-20, the Apostle Paul says: ‘But who do you think you are to second-guess God? How could a human being moulded out of clay say to the one who molded him, ‘Why in the world did you make me this way?’ (TPT)
Paul is making it clear that when we give definitions of ourselves that oppose those of God the Father, we are denying our creator (the one who molds us). Simply put, when we do this we are acting out of rebellion, and we are living in idolatry (we place our perceptions of who we are above those of God, our maker). Most of us call ourselves things because of pain, shame, guilt, sin, and hurt that has remoulded what God intended, BUT, God’s definition of us is true, and we need to stop denying ourselves this gift – we are His beloved children in whom He is well pleased! (Matthew 3:17)
When we say ‘I am’, I believe it always needs to be in the context, or perspective, of THE ‘I AM’, and who He says we are first. If we allow our sin, pain, and their consequences to define us, we deny our true identity. All people that have experienced pain, guilt, abuse, shame or any kind of struggle (physically or emotionally) need to be carefully and compassionately cared for, but in such a way that they will always find their true God-given identity, and drop any self-imposed definitions that undermine the ‘I AM’.
This obviously has great consequences for us as we engage the world in which we live. So many new names defining gender identity have been, and are continuing to be created. Gender is one aspect of our sexuality, and research clarifies that our gender differentiation, definition and identification are formed from conception, at birth, and around 3-years-old (Lemmer, 2006: 126-134).
The ‘I AM’ is pretty clear in Genesis 1:27 that definitions around gender of being a man or woman are simple (and within each, diverse), but I fear that we have erred on idolatry and decided that we need to be the ‘I AM’, and formulate identities that are complicated, and are far removed from His simple, loving definitions. It’s no wonder we live in a world full of confusion and struggle concerning gender. We need to be careful.
The most exciting thing about seeing ourselves through the eyes of the I AM is that He reveals facets, sides, shades, textures, colours, melodies and tones that are ‘us’, that without Him, we’d miss.
Whose we are, is more important than who we believe we are. In the context of the ‘I AM’, we, like Moses, can face the trauma of facing our Egypts (circumstances that caused our past hurt, pain and slavery), the Pharoahs (ungodly authority figures in our lives), and even the Israelites (those close to us that have hurt us). God, the ‘I AM’, is more than enough. We do not need to try and redefine who we are because of our pain. Let’s rather see our pain through the perspective of the ‘I AM’. In so doing, we can completely trust His simple definitions of who we are, and find healing and freedom.
I am only the I AM’s.
Lemmer, J. 2005. Identity and sexuality. Sexology SA. Pretoria, South Africa