It took me until I was a person of a certain age before I was willing to fully embrace the Popeye creed. ( If you are not a person of a certain age and don’t know who Popeye is, you can find out about Popeye here and here.) You might recall, Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.” The Popeye creed.
Being able to comfortably claim what I yam, shall we call it my inner nerd, took a while. But eventually, I was able to accept that I like to read (history, biography, theology, science and mysteries). I like being able to study Biblical texts in their original languages ( although I must confess it takes considerable effort these days). I write essays for fun, hence this blog.
It took a while for me to be comfortable saying I don’t like shopping and cooking. I live a mostly sports free existence. I have no idea who won the World Series. I have no idea which teams are vying for holiday bowl games. I have never watched more than 10 minutes of a reality show. I don’t know who is dancing with the stars. I don’t know who survived. I don’t have an iPod, I prefer to listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. I yam what I yam.
While the Popeye Creed is more than a little silly, taking some time to consider who we are, isn’t.
As I was thinking about this, I was struck by how similar the Popeye Creed is to the divine name revealed in Exodus. Bible scholars and language scholars tell us the Hebrew statement of the Divine name is difficult to translate.
It could mean: I am who I am. Or I am what I am. Or I will be what I will be.
Such a paradox of God, we know God’s name and yet we don’t. Even in the giving of God’s name, God remains undefinable. Past, present, future, full of unpredictable potential.
Part of what it means to bear the image of God is that we bear potential. Part of what it means to bear the image of God is paradoxically, the freedom to be. To be what we will be. To be able to say, “I yam what I yam”.
This isn’ t the “I gotta be me” of the modern world- the self referencing , self-centered me of modern times.
This “I yam what I yam” finds its orientation in the larger “I Am” of God.
This I yam is defined by the I Am of God.
I yam what I yam, a child of God.
I yam what I yam, beloved of God.
When I am being what “I yam” meant to be, I am living fully. Not defined by society, not measured by the yardstick of dollars, not measured by fame, not measured by achievement. When I am living fully, I am defined by love. When I am living fully, I am making my particular and unique contribution to society- what ever that is.
I yam what I yam. What about you?
For an Advent reflection of mine, check out the Presbyterian Blogger site.