Who am I?
Our contemporary Western culture invites us to ask this question all the time. Identity has become fluid and malleable. We can invent and reinvent ourselves almost on a daily basis. We switch careers. We move around. We join subcultures. We assume online identities. We can even “change” our gender.
But this world of opportunity also fosters deep angst and anxiety. There’s nothing bigger than us to form our identity. The breakdown of families, national identities, and belief in God mean we have become the measure of our lives. In the past you may have had a humble job, but you were proud to be part of your company, proud to be part of your nation. But those corporate identities don’t matter so much now. Now identity is down to me—something I achieve rather than something I receive.
So we have a problem. We enjoy creating our own identity, until we find ourselves unable to deliver. For many, the pressure to achieve and sustain a self-built identity becomes too much. Rates of depression are higher than ever. Our sense of self is brittle. We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating our identity, striving to confirm it, and dealing with failures to live up to it.
So the question remains: Who am I?
We find the Bible’s answer to this exact question in a surprising place—the account of Moses meeting God in the burning bush. Overwhelmed by the size of the task the Lord has just given him, Moses asks: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11).
God’s answer? “I will be with you” (Exod. 3:12).
Is that really an answer? How does knowing someone is with you help you to know who you are? I think it is an answer—the answer. Moses’s identity is tied to God’s. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Moses asks. We might have said: “Moses, you’re the ideal person. You were brought up in the Egyptian court. You have seen your people’s suffering. You can do it.”
But God simply says, “I will be with you.”
He is the one who will make the difference. Moses doesn’t need a higher self-esteem; he needs a deeper sense of God’s presence.
Better than Self-Made
You can be a self-made person, and you may enjoy your autonomy for a while. But it’s hard work. Whether you’re trying to fit in at school or prove yourself in your career or keep up with the latest fashions, eventually the cracks will appear. Always the question remains: Will my self-made identity withstand the pressures of this life, and then the test of divine appraisal beyond this life?
But God makes a better offer. “I will be with you,” he says. “You can walk through life with me. You can ground your sense of self in your knowledge of me. You can find your confidence and worth in knowing I’m there for you, and here with you. You can know I’m with you, and your achievements and failures won’t affect that status.”
Imagine trying to visit the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace in London. You’re going to be asked, “Who are you? What gives you the right to be here?” Most of us aren’t going to get past the front gate. But what about Kate Middleton? When she was 15 years old, she would have gone no further than us. But now she can say, “I’m with him. I married the prince.” Who is she? She is Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. She gets that identity from her husband. In the same way, we get our identity from Jesus our Husband. United to the Son, we’re now family.
Defined By God
Later in Exodus God describes Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exod. 4:22). In the New Testament, he gives that same assurance to those who receive him through Jesus: “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Who am I? One of God’s royal children. A person defined by him.
You may have just been a great employee or you may have had a terrible day at work. You may have been a great parent or child, or a selfish one. You may have been praised, or mocked, or ignored. You may have been mainly obedient or horribly sinful. But if you have embraced Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a child of the King—and nothing can change that. That means today you can go out with confidence—not in what you can do, but in who is with you.
Who am I? I am a child of God. And today God speaks these wonderful words to you: “I am with you.”