One of the earliest names for God is really no name at all. When Moses was called to the Pharaoh to say “Let my people go” (what would become the Exodus), Moses asked, “Who should I say sent me?” God responded, “Tell them I AM sent you.” What kind of name is “I AM”?
It speaks to the nature of God beyond description, defying one name. Being without beginning or end.
Which leads me to ask: who are you, really? You have a name. People could describe you in various ways. But what is your core identity? How would you complete the phrase, “I AM____”?
A few weeks ago I heard on NPR about a performance in New York, called “In and Of Itself,” by an illusionist named Derek Delgaudio. My wife thought I was crazy, but I was so captivated by the show’s concept that I bought a ticket for the next week and caught an early morning flight.
The performance centered on the idea of identity. How do you see yourself? How do others perceive you?
I entered the theater lobby to see a large board with hundreds of pegs that each held a card that said “I AM” with a distinct phrase below. Each audience member was asked to choose one, but how? The cards stated things like “I AM a leader,” “I AM a freak,” “I AM a heartthrob,” “I AM a dream” and so on. It wasn’t easy to pick just one. My identity, and yours, is so much more than one thing, or what people see. I finally picked a card and took my seat.
The show was fascinating, but it was the finale that I’ll never forget. Delgaudio said something like, “Each of you chose a card that represents something about who you are. For some of you, it was kind of fun and your choice didn’t mean much. But for others, the choice was really meaningful. If that describes you, stand up right now.”
About 100 stood up out of 150. One by one, Delgaudio looked people in the eye and stated what they had chosen. “You are a maverick.” “You are an intellectual.” “You are an artist.” I have no idea how he did it. If he was correct, the audience member nodded and sat down. For all 100 people, he named exactly how they saw themselves. Some people were crying. All of us were amazed.
For a long time, he stood before one woman before saying in choked words, “You are a nobody.” That was the card she had chosen, how she saw herself.
No matter which one word you might choose, know this: No one sees the fullness of you. You’re not God, but you are more than anyone knows. You are a mystery. You are a gift. You are somebody.
Psalm 139:13 says, “God, you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”