I AM…

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.

Sources:

Lemmer, J.  2005. Identity and sexuality. Sexology SA. Pretoria, South Africa

A way out (from porn addiction)

Shame and guilt is the most common result of porn addiction. Attempts to break free are so often hampered by a focus on behavior when we’re told: ‘get rid of your smart phone’; ‘put spy-wear on your internet devices’ … and so it goes on.

While management is important, Porn addiction is just that – an addiction, and the addict behaves the way he/she does because there is so much pain in a part of their life that in the instant of it being touched, unwanted, care-less, embarrassing behavior is the consequence.

To break any addiction, we have to start with considering ‘misbeliefs’ we have about God our maker, and ourselves. Often these are created through painful experiences in life, and whenever the emotion of those experiences is touched, we are overwhelmed and we behave in a way that we sometimes don’t understand.

So if you are in this place today, start by considering your belief system. Maybe you want to check out your beliefs about fascination by answering these questions for yourself:

  •  Did God really give us a longing to be fascinated?
    • If He did not, then why are we fascinated?
    • If He did, then How has he gifted me to fulfill this longing in a wholesome way?

As you answer these questions, you might want to consider Revelations 4 in the Bible, and consider how very fascinated every living creature is in Heaven.

Now just before you finish reading – what healthy fascination did you have when you were about 6 years’ old.  Maybe you can pursue that fascination in the next two days, and  allow that to focus your attention, especially when you are tempted to look at pornography.

Next blog we’ll consider some more ‘misbeliefs’. May you know rich favor as you reroot yourself into real truth.

Fighting Pornography

Why is Pornography such a distraction?  Why shouldn’t we look at it?  What’s the difference between porn and erotica?  When do we know that we’re addicted?  What are some of its consequences?  How can we break addiction to porn? …………….?

Pornography is said to be an epidemic in our western society, accruing a financial income of over 7 billion in 2007; affecting people of all ages, races, status and genders; tearing apart the fundamental value of family and marriage, and ultimately attacking the primary principle that all life ‘IS SACRED’, and precious.

In Isaiah 61, we are told that God gives us ‘beauty for ashes’, and addictions are the ashes of our passions being expressed incorrectly.  God’s desire is for all of us to receive His Beauty in these broken areas of our lives.  We all have deep human longings that are real; need to be filled, satisfied and enjoyed, BUT in a healthy way.  So, coming to terms with these longings, and finding God’s way to express them is the ultimate key to becoming free from any addiction – including pornographic addiction.  So in order to help people get free from pornographic addiction we need to: understand the longings of the human heart; educate healthy sexuality; protect ourselves and our family from exposure to it; pray and heal people from the spiritual oppression it can create; and provide support and accountability.

This is why I will be speaking on this vast topic this weekend – if you’re in the area, we’d love to see you.

Intimacy – ‘where are you?’

‘Where are you (Adam)?’

This was God’s question to Adam when walking in the garden, once he and Eve had given in to temptation, sinned and covered up their nakedness (Genesis 3:9) We have to ask the questions: ‘Did God not know where Adam was?’ or, ‘Was God actually asking Adam to find out where ‘he was’? – physically, emotionally, and possibly, spiritually.  I would dare to choose the latter as an answer.  This appears to be the first time that Adam has been lost, and God the Father, is wanting Adam to take stock of his being, emotions, thoughts, feelings and spirit, in the light of the sad event with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The fact is that we live in a broken world, but just as Adam needed to be asked where he was, we all live an existence that is often ‘self-unaware’, in which we hide our real self in fear of others finding out who we ‘really are’.  God yearns for us, like he did Adam, to be aware of who we really are, so that others can understand us.  This positions us to be loved and to love.  God yearns to be intimate with us all.

Intimacy is defined as making known the innermost parts of the self (Talmadge 1986). Intimacy from Latin intimate means: to put, bring, drive, announce, make known; and intimus: the superlative of intus, which means: within. So, it is:  to bring, announce, drive home, make known that which is within.

To do this, we need to ask the question, ‘Where are you?’, maybe daily, hourly, or monthly, because to be known means that we have to know, and this is a key to becoming intimate with those we love.  This will result in vulnerability with strength, as we identify who we are and daringly and specifically share this with someone we love.

So, ‘where are you’ in your physical being, your emotions, mind, will and spirit?  Stop right now and be honest with yourself and let it sink in for a while.  Who can you choose to share this with responsibly (not asking them to take responsibility for whatever it is), so that they can know you and your relationship can go to another level.  In this moment, we allow our neocortex (rational mind) to develop, and we start to reflect our superiority as the human race.  It’s good to ‘know where we are’.  We might feel uncomfortable sometimes, but its worth it as we become solid and wholesome.

Intimacy – getting to know

‘I really thought you understood that I don’t like that!’

‘You’re so focused on your own ways, will you ever understand mine?’

If your marriage or close relationships have sometimes included these statements of frustration, you need to know that you are not alone, but actually, you are on a good trajectory of becoming more intimate with each other.

So often we confuse intimacy with sexual intimacy only, but, while it can include this, it is so much more that just sexual closeness.  We all need to be intimate at every stage of our lives, it is lifelong, and it fulfills the deepest part of our beings.  In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote: ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.’ (1 Cor 13:12) It’s as if we exist to be noticed, and to notice: to know, and to be known.  This is intimacy – knowing someone, and being known by someone.  While it seems simple, its lack can have some dire consequences – like addictive cycles; a need for pornography and a deep longing for connection that can so easily be perverted, just to name a few.

Said in another way: intimacy is when partners can map their own minds in front of each other, while letting their partner map their own mind as well (Schnarch 2009: 150).  Mind-mapping involves being able to read our own mind, and someone else’s, and being willing to engage this ‘mapping’ meaningfully.  It involves vulnerability, kindness and acceptance if it is to be constructive, but if one partner becomes critical and judgmental, it provides the fuse for major explosions!

So, how can you improve your intimacy with your partner?  Maybe try this: ask your partner to share something about you, that he/she thinks you do not know.  Then you can tell him/her something you think he/she doesn’t know about him/herself.  Enjoy the ‘getting to know’ each other.  Be careful to show kindness and respect and it should be a wonderful time.