February 26, 2013 by John Nicholas Prassas
Most people have heard of Moses. Many know his story. Some can recite details of his narrow escape from death as a baby, his adoption into Pharaoh’s palace and his eventual role as deliverer of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Passover celebration recounts it every year.
But few of us know or appreciate the identity crisis Moses suffered or understand how the same revelation that cured him can cure us and set us free to liberate captives of every kind, today.
Psychologists will tell you that our quest for identity is more than a ‘mid-life’ crisis, but is in fact a lifelong crisis. We all ask and wonder, “Who am I?”
As children we desperately yearn for badges and affirmations of our value and acceptance. My wife teaches second grade and constantly marvels at what her students will do to earn a reward as simple as a sticker!
Yet just look at what we’ll do as adults to earn a car with a big sticker price and shiny emblem that glimmers in the sun. We all want to win the race, the spelling bee, or even the science fair to make a name for ourselves, to let the world know WHO WE ARE!
We all want to be somebody special.
Because our identity crisis is so deeply ingrained we naturally identify ourselves with things that help us feel secure, successful or important whether it’s a job or career, a fashion brand or zip code, an ethnic or social group, a college, a town, a state, a country, a cause or movement of some kind.
Once you understand the depth of this hunger you realize how so many ordinary citizens could get swept up in a movement like Hitler’s Third Reich, which promised them victory and honor, replete with flags, banners, marching bands and medals or uniforms for everyone, young and old alike.
When we moved to Texas we couldn’t believe how many homes flew flags outside on Saturdays in the Fall. Can you guess why or what kind? If you guessed college flags to show support for favorite football teams, then you are correct! Perfectly innocent fun, but another glimpse of the hunger we have to fly banners and identify ourselves with winners – or with something.
As Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s court he identified with a winner, the gosh-darn king of Egypt! He was a ‘son’ with a golden future. He belonged to the winning team, and was on track to be one of its stars. Then he learned he actually belonged to the other team, the grimy slaves, toiling and sweating every day to survive under the harsh sun and harsh hand of their brutal taskmasters.
“Who am I?!” He must have wailed in the agony of his identity crisis.
In what became a swirling hurricane of mixed loyalties and emotions, Moses didn’t handle it so well. He killed an Egyptian he spied abusing a Jewish slave and had to run away into the desert to avoid punishment for murder.
He lived in the desert so long he became a total nobody from nowhere. His identity was dirt and he had gotten used to it – something many of us can relate with all too well.
This went on year after dusty year – until Moses was old and gray. He was anything but special.
The voice told Moses to go back to Egypt to liberate the Jews from slavery. Moses didn’t know who was crazier, the voice or him!
Incredulous, Moses asked, “Who am I?” He had several good reasons why he wasn’t the right person for the job.
Here was another identity crisis. But this time God was in the mix.
Moses protested, but God told him he’d be fine because he was sending him personally and would empower him. This prompted Moses to ask, “So who are you?”
God’s answer was simple, yet filled with all-knowing authority: “I am who I am.”
In the flickering light of those burning bush flames, in the nano-second needed for a cricket to chirp or a shooting star to blink, Moses’ identity crisis and insecurity were cured.
Moses found his identity and confidence where we must find ours – in the flames of God’s presence and in the voice affirming that he knows us no matter where we are or where we’ve been, and that he’s sending us and empowering us to help others. Our identity and our confidence come from him.
Hence, we can no longer ask ‘who am I?’ because he gave us the answer when he sent Jesus ‘to rescue us from the domain of darkness and deliver us into the kingdom of his beloved son.’
We are no longer dusty old men waiting to die or desperate young street urchins hustling to live.
God tells us we’re his sons and daughters when we receive Jesus by faith and he fills us with love through his Spirit of adoption to affirm our identity, our inheritance and our purpose.
Like Moses we must stop arguing with God and take on the identity and purpose he’s given us.
Let’s pray that God’s light and heat would transform us and make us burn and glow and know our true identity and purpose as sons and daughters destined to love and serve and liberate others from bondage and despair. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
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