The Popeye Creed

I yam what I yam
Image by tim ellis via Flickr

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.

6 thoughts on “The Popeye Creed

  1. I grew up with Popeye … so this quickly caught my attention. 🙂

    The paradox is difficult … the acting as I am in a strictly human behavior sense can be an excuse to “just to do” … thus a freedom for us to be who we are.

    On the other hand, actively demonstrating the I am all these aspect of God is difficult because human tends to center on themselves. There lies the double-edge sword because God wants to act in his image, which is something that challenges us to act counter to our self-centered nature.

    After all, God grants us great amount of freedom, yet realizes the odds are very good that we will fall short … thus is bountiful grace and forgiveness. Maybe Judgment Day is about how close we’ve come – how much we tried.

    Hopefully I’m not rambling. Popeye is a good analogy – well done!

  2. Holy Smokes! A fellow PC USA-er? Glad to meet you. (I followed you from High Calling).

    Writing essays for fun – now that’s unique. But there are many more of us out there! I am also of “a certain age” and agree that it takes a while to get to this point where we can recognize the brilliance of who we are, what we have to contribute, as opposed to wallowing in our faults and weaknesses.

    I love the way God makes himself known in this mysterious way, so that we could never wrap him into a word, or words. He just is, and will be what He will be. Excellent essay, Nancy.

  3. Nancy … you have hit the key, thus done something most of us avoid – stepping up to accept the challenge, even knowing you will fall short. But it is the valiant acceptance that God wants from us. In other words, I tip my cap to your effort and commitment to your calling.

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