the long version

My most recent tattoo is Hebrew lettering for I AM. (and yes I've had it for a while, and I have 3 more in case you were wondering)
I never quite know how to explain it.
And when you put a tattoo on your wrist, people are going to ask.
I have a short version where I just tell them it means “Yahwey” (which most simply put means I am), and if they keep staring at me blankly I explain that it is a Hebrew name for God. Not that I’m trying to call myself or compare myself with God. It is more like a reminder. That usually does the trick and I can continue on my merry little way.
But really that’s not why at all.

When Moses asked God his name, this is how he responded.
God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' " Exodus 3:13-14 NIV
That word am has to be one of the most important in the English language. You might argue that "is" and "are" are equally important. I disagree.
Is is not personal. It is how someone else introduces you.
Are is how you talk about someone else.
But am is how you describe yourself.

Obviously God did not feel the need to finish the sentence because He is everything. Everything good at least. And so much more than our little human vocabulary could ever encompass.

I am also a lot of things……although my resume is not as all inclusive as God's but I am…… a lot of things. A mother, a wife, a child, a teacher, a friend, a sister, an aunt…you get the idea. Most of those are easy to say because they don't require any desire. I was born, making me a child. I got married making me a wife. I get paid to be a teacher. Don't get me wrong – they all take skill and work….but these are easy ones to admit and accept.

There are some damaging I ams out there that I have learned to avoid. Ones that for moments I let become my identity. Until I realized that God is so much bigger than that. And that I don’t have to be a mess, or an alcoholic or a failure. That I can just be. They can make up tiny slivers of my story. But they will never be who I am.

There are other I ams that are sort of wishful. Hopeful. Hesitant to come right out and say. Almost a decade ago I read Bird by Bird and decided that I wanted to be a writer. Notice I said I want to be…….not I am . Technically I am typing here. Using complete sentence ( well sometimes). I am writing……..but does that make me a writer? Of course. But that doesn't roll off the tongue or pen so easily because it makes too many assumptions. I don't assume to be good at this. I don't assume that any one will ever pay me for it. I don't want to say I am………and allow confidence in this hope or pleasure. I dabble. I blog. I read. Can I just be an amateur writer?
I don't think the word am goes too well with disclaimers. I run, but I see those skinny people in spandex at the gym or in races and think they are the runners and I well……..I am just barely keeping up. I think I have to be good at it to call myself that.

Thankfully disclaimers don’t apply to the I am a follower of Jesus. If it did I would look around at church and say those women - the ones with ironed shirts and memorized verses and who never say bad words or have too much wine – those are the real Christians. I don't quite have it together….so I must just be pretending or hoping to one day be. Thankfully, it doesn't really work that way.
I am because of what I believe. Not because of what I do or don’t do. But simply because I want to be.

So on that note, I gues am also a runner, a soccer player, a good joke teller, a photographer and maybe just maybe even a writer.

And on my wrist. So that I can see it loud and clear everytime I look down.
I remember and that I am so much.
Roles that I was born into or chose. Things that I do. Things that I hope for. And things that I believe in.
And those ugly labels. I am not that. I am something much bigger.
And mostly I remember that I am loved by the great I AM.
(but I wouldn't ask about the James Avery butterfly tatoo on my back, that is a pretty lame story)


Corinne said...

This was such a good read, and a good reminder. We're all so much more :)

Anonymous said...

Very nice post! My hubby and I have been contemplating tats this week. I like hearing other people's ideas of why and what they mean to them. ;)

Margie said...

Michelle, I am really enjoying your increased posting and the topics. Your writing is a real pleasure to read. You've also inspired me to go ahead and buy Bird by Bird - I've thought about it for years.

beka said...

Mmm, I liked this post. Nice tattoo, btw:)

juliet yoshida said...

I just stumbled randomly onto your blog and I love your writing!