WHO AM I?
T. PIERCE BROWN
As I was meditating on the question Moses asked in Exodus3:11, “Who am I?” the realization occurred to me that there is a difference in the meaning of the question if one accents the “am” and if one accents the “I.” If I raise the question, “Who AM I?” I am concerned with my nature, origin, qualities or essence of my being. It is a sort of neutral question, merely involving a search for my roots or nature. It is a more specific question of the general one David raised in Psalm 8:4, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” If I raise the question Moses raised, “Who am I?” the suggested answer is one implying that I am a nobody. Moses was suggesting his inferiority, or inability to be the kind of person who could lead God’s people. He was not asking for information concerning his identity.
It is important for us to study the implications of both kinds of questions. If we are searching for a philosophical answer, or a biological answer involving our basic nature, we may find all kinds of answers in evolutionary textbooks on biology, or in philosophical works which attempt to answer such questions as “Who am I? From where did I come? What is my purpose on earth? What is my destiny?” It is worth noting that the greatest minds of man from antiquity have probed such questions and have arrived at no satisfactory answers. The only answer that is accurate, definitive, fairly complete and of any value is the answer found in the Bible. I am a being created in the image of God, so valuable that Christ died for me.
The implications of the Biblical answer are as broad and important as life itself. They involve the fact that since I am created in the image of God, I have certain inherent qualities that are wonderful. I have moral qualities, creative instincts, ability to discern right and wrong and make appropriate choices. Any time a person has abilities, he has response abilities, or responsibilities. It is vital for us to have a correct answer to the question, “Who am I and what is my purpose in life?”
On the other hand, if we ask, “Who am I?” and are searching for answers that involve questions about our self worth, or ability to perform certain tasks, we may look in self-help books, or books on psychology. Again, the only answer that is accurate and properly balanced is that found in the Bible. By “properly balanced” I mean that the Bible shows man as sinful and incapable of making the right choices by himself. He is helpless and hopeless, and therefore may view himself as worthless. However, that is not the complete picture, for it also shows that since he is made in the image of God, and God is able and willing to help, we do not have to make the right choices by ourselves, but may follow His guidance. So, instead of the lopsided evaluation of man as a person hereditarily totally depraved, or as a person who is the complete master of his own destiny who can say with confidence, “I’m O.K.; you are O.K.” man is shown at his worst and at his best. When we ask the question, “Who am I?” we need to be aware of the implications of Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” This implies that he should think of himself as highly as God revealed him to be, neither too high nor too low.
When Moses asked, “Who am I?” he was asking the kind of question each of us asks when we are faced with a task that seems too great for our small abilities and we have an inferiority complex. As I consider my own life I am often reminded of the story of the man who went to the psychiatrist and said, “I think my problem is an inferiority complex. I think you may be able to help me.” After a careful examination, the psychiatrist said, “Your problem is not that you have an inferiority complex. Your problem is that you are inferior.”
We do not know if Moses was inferior, and if so, to whom. We do know that his limitations were insignificant with God as his helper. It is so with us. God never asks us to do that which it is impossible for us to do with His help. All He requires of us is that we do what we can, where we are, with what we have. Then the marvel of it is that He then enables us to do what we cannot, where we are not, with what we do not have. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but the two that have the most appeal to me are in John 6 and Matthew 14. From a human standpoint it is silly to think of asking a boy with five loaves and two fish to feed 5000. When he did what he could, where he was, with what he had Christ enabled him to do what he could not. It always happens. Peter could not walk on water, but when Jesus said, “Come” he did what he could, and as a result, did what he could not.
If we will but learn and practice the admonitions of Moses and of God, and move on when God says, “Go forward” regardless of fears, limitations and difficulties, we will discover that either we will be able to walk over the difficult waters that confront and confound us, or they will divide and we will walk through them. What difference does it make which one happens? “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why? “Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” This is why the early disciples were able to face difficulty, disaster, danger and death with courage and faith. They learned to some degree what Paul learned. God’s grace is sufficient, no matter what deficiency or thorn in the flesh we may have. We have the same God they had. Thank God, and take courage.