Us: Who Am I Really?
If you’re wondering who you are or what your identity is, the story in Genesis 1 and 2 is a good place to start. We are God-created, in-breathed creatures alive with the Spirit of God in us, with a mission to be God’s image bearers.
A few years back a friend and I rode two motorcycles across Russia and the Middle East and then down through Africa to Cape Town. It was a fun, crazy adventure.
One time we were trying to ask some people in eastern Siberia where to find the road out of the town we were in. We couldn’t speak much Russian and they had no English. I remember standing there blankly while they gabbled to each other in that strange language.
I felt so dumb – literally – that I started saying something random in English to my friend Graham. I just wanted to show those Russian guys that: ‘hey – I can actually talk, just not in your language, ok?’
That 30000 kilometer trip halfway around the world taught me all kinds of things about myself. Experiencing so many different cultures and exploring ancient places often made me feel very small and insignificant…
The writer of the Genesis story wanted to show us a few things about who we as humans really are. Small and insignificant in some ways? Yes; in other ways very much not…
Check out the story as it’s told in Genesis 1v26 – 2v7. As you read it see if you can pick up any clues about our true identity as human creatures.
God created human beings; he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature. Genesis 1v27 (The Message)
The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33v4
Here’s what the original Hebrew text of Genesis 2v7 looks like (it’s written from right to left!):
adam in Hebrew means man but it also means earth or dust. It’s kinda cool how the writer tells it: the man (Adam) is formed out of the dust (adam) of the earth. We are literally earth-lings (dustlings?). But we are more than just earthlings…
Then God breathes into the earth-man’s nostrils. The word for ‘breath’ used here is nishamah which also means wind or spirit.
The earth-ling also becomes a breath-ling.
Humans – women and men – are the only creatures in the Story that get the breath – the spirit – of God.
Now, it may help to know what the first listeners of this story might have been thinking at this point. They were probably familiar with the many different religions in that part of the world. In some of these religions, people would build great, big temples that would be the home for their god. If you wanted to worship the god, you would go to where the god was – in its temple.
It was also usually the case that this god was invisible. People tend to have a hard time worshiping invisible gods (that your experience?) To solve this problem, people would make wood or stone or clay statues that they could see.
‘You wanna know where our god is? Well, it’s over there, on the shelf …’
But the statues did more than that. They were made to represent some characteristic of the god. So if they thought people needed to see the god as strong – then they would make a statue that was ripped and flexing, and probably killing something.
So now they could say ‘yeah, there’s our god on the top shelf and he’s really strong. Probably stronger than yours so … maybe bow down or something …’
There was one thing they had to do before the statue could be placed on its shelf. In order to really represent the god, the people would perform this ceremony in which the god itself was supposed to breathe into the statue. When it this happened, something of the god’s life would go into the wood or stone and the statue could go stand in the temple.
Can you see now what the people listening to Genesis would have been thinking as they hear this story for the first time?
They’re like … ‘hey … wait a minute! This creation story sounds just like the stories from the tribe over the hill. You’re saying our God Yahweh did the same kind of thing?’
‘Ok well, where’s the temple then?’
‘God’s going to give us a temporary temple in a few Old Testament books time but the answer for now is: Yahweh’s ‘temple’ is everything he’s created – earth, stars, planets and more stuff we can’t even see.’
‘And the where are the statues?’
‘Um, we’re the statues.’
‘Woah … so if, say an alien or something from some other universe were to come here it’s supposed to get an idea of what Yahweh is like from seeing us?’
‘Yup, that’s what it means to be made in God’s image.’
(There’s some silence as people let this sink in. Some are scratching their heads…)
‘So, with the world as messed up as it is and all, we’re wondering what this alien will actually think of God …’
‘Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. We’ll get to that in the next chapter…’
We humans were made to reflect God’s image in this world. We are in-breathed creatures.
If you’re wondering who you are or what your identity is, or next time you’re searching for some inspiration – this story is a pretty good place to start!
And if you’re wondering what your purpose in life is, this is it in its rawest form: our purpose as people created in God’s image is to enjoy being God’s creatures and reflect something of who God is in the world.
Even though our image-bearing ability has been seriously messed up by the human desire to BE the Image rather than reflect God’s image, we can sometimes catch glimpses of the real thing when we see people at their best: when two friends get a relationship right we see God’s relational character lived out; when we see stunning creativity from artists we see a God who is infinitely creative; when people care for each other because God cares and heals; people love beauty and music and poetry because God loves those things too; when we see someone who loves adventure and discovery it’s because God is an adventurous God.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s a lot that people do that would horrify God, would most likely horrify our alien visitor, and horrifies us. We are broken images that often reflect evil instead of goodness. But not completely broken.
There are still glimpses that hint at what we will one day fully become.
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.
Download a PDF version of this session here
o What for you are the things – possessions, skills, talents, habits, people you love etc – that define who you are the best?
o The question: ‘am I worth something?’ is an important one for most people. What ideas or tangible ‘evidence’ would you use to answer that for yourself?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
In this session we’ve explored the idea that God is always there creating new things out of nothing in our lives…
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o What one thing stood out for you most in what you heard?
o Did anything in this session make you feel encouraged or hopeful?
o How does it feel to think of yourself as someone who has God’s living presence in you? How alive does that presence feel to you right now?
o What does it mean to you to see yourself as someone who reflects something of God’s character to people who might not know God?
o Has there been anything in this session that has challenged your idea of what God is like?
Enter the Story
If you have time Read John 20:19-22—imagine you are there in the room with the other disciples. Listen as Jesus says ‘peace to you!’ Then watch Jesus as he does something that only God has ever done before—back in Genesis 1. Jesus breathes the Spirit of God over you and into you… ‘Receive the Spirit’ he says.
Spend a few moments focusing on your breathing. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in God’s presence and life into you. Invite God in. What does that feel like? Breathe out anything that is making you fearful or worried or just tiring you out. Leave them for Jesus to deal with. How does that make you feel?
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?
Have you encountered something about the way God creates new things this session that makes you want to say to God:
‘wow, I’ve kind of lost my sense of who I really am, what you created me to be and to do. There are lies I’ve believed about who I am instead. Help me rediscover and live out the truth of who you made me to be.
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …
o We can only reflect God to others properly if we keep being filled and inspired by the Spirit in us. What do you need to do to invite God in more?
o What things in your life need some of Jesus creative touch or the Spirit’s power to change?
o Is there something new God might be wanting to create in the world you live in by using you in some way? Is there a practical step you need to take to help make that happen?
The writers of the Old Testament story wanted to show us new things about God so that we would be inspired to worship God and live right. How does this – and what you’ve seen about God – inspire and give you the words to worship God today?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Do you know who you are – really? One of the highlights in the creation story in Genesis is what it says about who we are – made by God, male and female, in God’s image. Being a teenager is a lot about discovering who you are.
At the most basic level – truth is … you’re someone who bears the image of the Creator of the Universe. That’s actually pretty amazing.
How much of the temptation to gossip about others, or to lie about ourselves or hide behind the masks we create is because we’re insecure, because we’ve lost that core sense of who we are?
Ask God to remind you of your true identity today?
Read the story in Genesis 1v26-31 here: http://bit.ly/1d3JnYK
What can I do to remind myself how much you love me? Set a reminder on my phone, wear a special piece of jewellery or write it somewhere I see often?
God, this truth needs to live deeply inside me. ‘Beloved of God’ – that’s my identity! Today God, I choose to listen for your voice saying how much you love me; not my own or other voices that say I’m not worth it.
Let your unfailing love surround me today ‘cos my hope is in you! (Psalm 33v22)
Psalm 33 here: http://bit.ly/1386tfh
Do you have any idea who you are? How much do you tend to get caught up in trying to make a name for yourself?
Here’s John Piper: ‘We weren’t meant to be somebody – we were meant to know Somebody’
What is more important than status is whether you know God. Only in Him can you find who you are meant to be. Are you sometimes confused about your identity? Have you been worried what people think of you?
Get to know God better – and you’ll discover some amazing things about who you are.
Who would have thought God would actually want to include me (and some really crazy people I know) in his plans for saving the world. I mean, if I were God I’d just do things my way. Less mess, less fuss, more results…
The more I read the Bible, the more it seems God really does want weird, unreliable me (and my crazy, random friends) in his plans. Not sure if that’s more awesome or scary!
How is God saving the world? By being present. Where is God present? In us – in the lives of every Jesus-following person. Living stones in a great God-building, every one of us.
That change anything for you?
Sho, so many things that want to define who I am: Man U supporter (or Liverpool / Arsenal / Chelsea (?)), Top academic or Maths lit, Jock or Nerd, Gay or Straight, Emo or Gangsta. So many people judge me by what grade I’m in, my clothes, my music, my accent, my looks …
(so what’s ‘normal’ anyways?)
Jesus, you define us differently: people lost in sin and in desperate need of rescue… then rescued and adopted as God’s children through what you did (and our faith in you.)
Your kids, all of us.
Now, please help me get on with all these crazy brothers and sisters of mine.
Read Galatians 3v26-29 here: http://bit.ly/1eWYsgS