This one was written by Abigail Russell.

Identity has been a buzzword in the Christian milieu for a few years now. We flock to personality tests and identity paradigms like MBTI and the Enneagram because having a title, a description, anything we can claim as ours pulls us in like an addiction. We take the tests over and over again wanting proof that we’ve changed and grown but also longing for consistency. We find our “type,” and it becomes like a friendly shadow following closely behind; it becomes the murky, undefined evidence that we exist. But despite all these identity handles, we still continue to search for a sense of self and perpetually face a blank slate scrawled with the overwhelming uncertainty of “Who am I?”

Moses asked this question when he was probably deep into his 40s, and his life does not much resemble that of a millennial. He fled Egypt as a young man because he committed a murder. An act that was in no small part the result of a murky sense of identity to begin with.  He then spent time in the wilderness, a foreigner, wandering away from his people and his God. But despite first appearances, Moses’ question came from a place most of us can relate to. While most of us can’t claim a murderous history, we all know what it’s like to wander, to feel out of place, and to feel the weight of our sin. It’s out of this place that God calls Moses to be the deliverer of His people and Moses asks, “Who am I?”

For Millennials, the temptation is to go on journeys of self-discovery in hopes of finding our own unique identity somewhere deep inside ourselves. But rather than turning completely inward, Moses sought the wisdom of someone who knew him better than he knew himself. Someone who knew his murderous past and designed his future as the deliverer.

When Moses encountered the presence of God at the burning bush, He asked Moses to lead a life for which he felt unprepared and unqualified (Exodus 3). For Moses, the question, “Who am I,” was a challenge to the call God placed on his life to return to the place of his greatest injustice and bring justice and mercy to the people of God. God’s call was to be free from what his current identity had been built on. But faced with this offer of freedom, Moses balked, considered himself unworthy and unqualified to do God’s work. Moses feared his place in God’s plan because of who he thought he was.

Rather than tell Moses who he was, God responded with three profound truths about Himself and His character.  His first response was to tell Moses “I will be with you.” In the midst of his identity crisis, God promised Moses that he was not alone. In response to Moses’ fear, God promised His presence. The fear of who you are, or are not, is not critical to how you answer God’s call. What matters is that He has called you, and He is with you.

In retort, Moses shifted his question a little. If this burning bush was promising to be with him, then who exactly was he dealing with? Instead of asking “who am I”, he began to ask, “Who are you?” His uncertainty over his own identity brought him to a place of doubt about God’s identity.  God’s response was a declaration of self-existence. He is “I AM who I AM.” He is not who we make Him. Moses may have shifted his question, but I believe God is still answering his first one. By claiming His own identity as “I AM,” He is saying that He is not who we make Him. What’s more, we are not who we make ourselves, we are who He made us to be. At this moment in Moses’ life, he was being made to be a deliverer by the God who IS, and understanding God’s character was the first step in understanding that identity.

But God doesn’t stop there. God makes one more declaration of who He is and at the same time, makes perhaps the strongest statement about who Moses is. God reminds Moses of the Covenant placed between himself and His people. He has just revealed to Moses that “I Am,” and now he is saying, “I always was.” Don’t miss the significance of this. Moses was a man whose identity was riddled by displacement and shame. He had to leave behind all he knew of who he was, taking with him only guilt, loneliness, and regret. By reminding Moses of the Covenant, God is essentially saying “I was God even then, just as I Am now. Your past has not disqualified you from the Covenant of grace I made. I have been sovereign over your suffering, your doubt, and who you have always believed yourself to be. Who I AM is greater than who you think you are.”

Knowing that God was present, that He was constant, and that He was gracious, did not stop Moses from questioning and doubting who he was, and it won’t stop us either. God calls us to an understanding of ourselves that is deeply rooted in an understanding of who He is. Unfortunately, like Moses, our idea of God is often restrained by our wavering sense of self, but our doubt does not define the great I AM, and it does not define us either. It is a beautifully freeing thing to know that our doubts and failure to understand God have absolutely no power over what He has made true. That we can claim an identity rooted in his unchanging character and steadfast love will forever remain untouched by our fears.

When we ask “Who am I?” God responds with “I AM.” He tells us we are present with and protected by God. We are not who we make ourselves, but rather carefully crafted by the hands of the Uncreated One, and we are not who we think we are based on our past. We are known, fully and completely by a God who has granted us an identity impervious to our failure to grasp it. Because of I Am, we are loved. That is the identity we are called to. Even when we don’t believe it.