November 1, 2017: The Great I AM

~by Louis Templeman

Why does God name Himself?

Why should he bother?

What’s in a name? Who is it who wants to know our names? A mother? A teacher? A police officer? A cashier who is checking our ID? A friend? A sibling? This demand for a name infers relationship. A child. A student. A suspect. A customer. A friend. A brother. A cousin.

Because of these relationships we need names.

Perhaps, God named himself so we could have a relationship with him. In fact, in the Christian concept of life, there is really no other way to embrace the fact that God chose to name himself. He is God after all. He certainly does not need a name. For God to accept a name is to speak of his condescension which is motivated by love for humanity.

In the early chapters of Genesis, before Abraham’s story begins, God’s names are not dissimilar to the local Canaanite gods of pre-history. But, to Abraham’s children God becomes, “I am the God of Abraham,” which sharpens the definition of who he is. It separates him from the local gods and ties him to a particular family. To Moses this was shortened to “I am;” or Yahweh. Some scholars point out that “I am with” is an equally good translation of Yahweh.

In Jesus’ revelation of God he expanded the idea to “Behold I am with you always even to the end of the world.” Jesus is the eternal “I am with.”

This God, this second person of the Trinity, this eternal “I am there for you” is also the God of tragic abandonment. In the darkest time of suffering in the history of the world Jesus knew absolute abandonment. He was abandoned, deserted by the “I am” of Moses. His were the saddest words ever as he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?” Jesus was left abandoned and totally helpless. God-who-is-with has now experienced being without, being left out, left with nothing but his pain, his loneliness and his helplessness.

So, God names himself so we can get to know him. Then he literally abandons himself that he might know all that we know and therefore is able to be fully united to us. Giving us his name required a great sacrifice.

Corrie Ten Boom loved quoting her sister who always insisted there is “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” God himself has been lost in deep darkness. Abandoned in his loneliness. Betrayed by a kiss. Scoffed in his naked humiliation. He had to balance the two imponderable ideas while on his cross. On one hand Christ, as he hung on the cross, knew he was divine. He referred to himself as, “I am.” On the other hand as he died he also knew “I am dying.”

In the midst of these ideas we eventually must succumb to our own limitations and quit wrestling with the “why” question and let go in order to embrace God’s presence.

He is not the God who always answers our questions. He does, however, give us his name, call us by our name and embrace us as family. Not that we may ask him questions but that we may call him and he can come be near us. He is “I am the God who loves you”. “I am the God who weeps with you.” “I am with . . . .”

He may not explain why everything happens the way it does. He may not show us the map so we can strike out on our own. But, he will hear us when we call his name, and will walk with us as we lean upon his arm. He will get us through the water, the fire, the trouble, the sorrow . . . . He will be with us. By his name we draw near.


Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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