“Are you Luke Skywalker?” It’s not an odd question in our house, where costumes are king and one minute my oldest son, Hutch (5), will be in Peter Pan green and the next, he’s in a white karate suit holding a blue light saber. At the same time, Oakes (4) is dressed as Darth Vader, and Avonlea (2) is wearing an Iron Man glove, storm trooper helmet, and a bright green tutu. But as they go flying down the hall, and I ask the obvious question, I usually get the reply, “No, Dad, it’s me, Hutch!”
Costumes are a powerful way to encourage imaginations and a fun way to think through what might be. In choosing a costume, kids think: “What powers would I like to have?” “What would I change about myself?” “What would make me special?”
Growing up and out of costumes doesn’t really take those questions away. Instead of superpowers, it becomes a matter of friends, skills, or achievements. We weigh the different options of education, relationships, and careers still wondering: “What power will this give me?” “What change will add value?” “What will make me special?”
As parents, we need to help our children navigate these questions, but how can we if we are still held captive to them ourselves? If I equate my identity to my success at work or how I compare to other dads, then all I can ever offer my kids is another costume change. And the thing about costumes is that they are sweaty, difficult to wash, and don’t actually change who you are. So what will?
“WHO AM I?”
When it comes to the superheroes of the Old Testament, Moses is right at the top. His name immediately brings to mind the power struggle with Pharaoh, plagues, and parting seas. But that is not the guy you have in Exodus 3. In chapter three, Moses isn’t a hero, but a failure, an outcast, and a fugitive. Yet this is the Moses God calls.
In a less-than-impressive answer, Moses says, “Who am I?” He is no longer impressed with himself—not his resume, education, reputation, abilities, or faithfulness. In a way, Moses has reached the place that each of us needs to reach—tired of trading one costume for another and acknowledging that the real problem is within. Moses is correct in his admission of his insufficiency, but incorrect in his math. Our weaknesses are overcome by God’s power; our poor identity with the riches of His own. God is greater than any insufficiencies.
This is the story of the gospel too. Rather than leave us to the judgment our insufficiencies and sinfulness deserve, God bends down through the incarnation of Jesus and shows us that God is not only all-sufficient in Himself, but that He will take care of our insufficiencies through Jesus’ perfection and payment for sin so that God might call us His children.
NAIL GUNS, SHEPHERD’S STAFFS, AND FATHER’S HANDS
Sometimes when I’m working on a house project, my son will come join me with his toy tools and his “worker-man” costume. Recently, I was working with a nail gun and I saw a look in his eyes showing he simultaneously wanted to join and also knew this was a tool he couldn’t use. So I said, “Hutch, come help me make this headboard.”
Puzzled, he responded, “How can I?”
I handed him the nail gun and immediately I surrounded his hands with mine. I guided the nail gun into place and said, “Pull the trigger,” and he did. I moved it over to the new spot and said, “Again.” And we kept doing this, his hands in mine as I directed the work and carried the weight of the gun until we finished. Then he ran and yelled, “Mom! Look what we built!”
At the end of Exodus 4, though Moses still doesn’t get it and is lost in his own insufficiency, God says to him, “… take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs” (Exodus 4:17 ESV). And in the pages that follow, God places His hands around Moses’ hands, so that when Moses gets to Pharaoh, God can whisper, “Pull the trigger. Tell Pharaoh to let my people go.”
We must point ourselves and our children to this wondrous truth—identity is not first about who we are, but about whose we are; for when we are God’s, our “who” is also changed. We don’t need a different costume; we need the Father.