The small book with the quirky title, I Am Not but I Know I Am, written by Louie Giglio and published by Multnomah Publishing attempts to champion the virtues of humility while glorying in the enormity of God. For some, maybe it succeeds. For me, it failed miserably.
My introduction to Giglio came via the first chapter of I Am Not but I Know I Am, which read much more like fiction than it should. I confess that I know nothing of his church nor the Passion conferences that he organizes. Yet, in this first chapter, Giglio tells a story in which he begins jogging one morning in New York City and by paying little attention to his surroundings, he winds up jogging down the middle of a freeway with cars passing on both sides of him. Suddenly, he is being hailed by to of New York’s finest and he has no clue why!
Come on. Really? You didn’t realize that you were running down the middle of a freeway? To me that really just sounds like a cool segue into your point. Something smells strange, and I think it is evangelistic exaggeration.
Then there comes the St. Paul’s Cathedral tale that morphs into Giglio stereotyping while simultaneously divining the lives of an Italian family he sees there.
As for Mom, I guessing that her story on most days is whatever is on the other end of the phone, whatever the latest raging topic is between her friends. It’s like somehow she’s telling me something without saying a word…I wonder if she knows that God invented the stuff in Botox and that he loves her with or without it.
On the surface, the theology seems solid. The whole premise of the book is simple: God is God. We are not. Yet, at times, Giglio drifts off into hipsterville and says something akin to what Joel Osteen might say.
The Almighty believes in you. He wants to constantly affirm you. But He will never deceive you by telling you that you are more than you are.
I’m not totally convinced that God longs to constantly affirm me. As a faithful Father, he obligates Himself to correct us and punish us and not simply say that we are good enough and strong enough. God is not Stuart Smalley.
Yet, I hoped it would get better. I actually thought it did until I ran into Giglio’s use of the “One word Bible study method” in John 1:14. There, the Bible reads, “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Now, permit me to quote a portion of what the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia writes about the word beheld:
…we BE held. We – little-bitty you and me – put our arms out to touch and hold the Son of God. Embracing Him. Holding on to Him. Squeezing to our chests the very Creator of the world.
And notice how the BE in Be-held goes both ways.
First, “we BE held,” meaning tiny I am nots like you and me get to put our arms around the great I AM. But just as astonishing, we see that “BE held” – a beautiful picture of the God of the universe carefully wrapping His great arms of grace around you and me.
Grammatically, theologically, hermeneutically, I’m not sure that any of this works. Properly defined, the word beheld means to, “see or observe (someone or something, especially of remarkable or impressive nature)”. The word beheld gives us no impression of “squeezing to our chests he very Creator of the world.” Neither does it intimate Him wrapping His arms around us.
On the surface the theology seems solid, but after brushing away the quirkiness, it comes across like just a bunch of hipster language for a very basic, yet potentially deep thought.
I had trouble finishing the book, but the silver lining came in the very last chapter entitled, “You Can Trust Him”. It is a sincere, no frills account of a family tragedy that rises above the rest of the book and flows with earnestness.
If Giglio wrote the entire book like he did the final chapter, it would be excellent. Instead, it serves as a shining jewel sitting atop a tarnished crown.
Finally, as always, I’d like to say thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for a review in this space.