Every time I hear the words from Exodus, “I AM WHO AM,” I can’t help myself to think about the words of Popeye the Sailor Man: “I am what I am.”
Remember Popeye? He’s a runty, playful, squinty-eyed guy with a speech impediment who sails the seven seas, adopted an infant he calls Sweet Pea, and is in love with a tall, skinny woman named Olive Oyl. Unfortunately, his nemesis Bluto is also attracted to Olive Oyl and keeps trying to kidnap her. When Popeye comes to her rescue, Bluto beats up on him until he starts feeling weak. Then he eats a can-full of spinach (and occasionally the can itself), which immediately gives him superhuman strength in order to defeat Bluto.
Now this is just a silly little cartoon meant to entertain. But like every story ever told by anyone anywhere, there’s always an underlying meaning.
Why spinach? When you Google spinach, it states that its main nutritional element is iron. And when you Google iron, it shows it can symbolize inner strength and the will and determination to see things through to the finish. Like Popeye always says: “I’m strong to the finich cause I eats me spinach.”
And what about Olive Oyl? Surely the name of this goofy, gangly gal can’t mean anything important, can it? Check it out. Apart from its many heart-healthy benefits, olive oil has spiritual meaning. Olives come from the olive tree, which in the Bible is associated with love and charity. And olive oil was used for anointing kings and priests and for fueling lamps which, of course, bring light, and by association, enlightenment.
So I’d like to share my enlightenment of the three spiritual lessons I’ve learned about God’s character from Popeye.
- Popeye’s name tells us about God, the Father.
We know Popeye is named because one of his eyes bulges. But what if we break down his name a bit more?
Jesus taught us that God is “Abba Father.” Abba Father is an intensely personal, loving, and tender reference that can be translated as Daddy or Papa. Taking us back to the 1950s, Papa was frequently shortened to Pop. Therefore, Abba Father is an intensely personal, loving, and tender reference to our heavenly Daddy or Pop.
The second part of the name, Popeye, focuses us on the eye. Scripture tells us, despite the fact that God is busy holding the universe together, He still has his eye on us and is always concerned about us – no matter what.
- Popeye is strong and rescues the weak.
In every episode, a bully is out to get Olive Oyl or baby Sweat Pea. It is therefore up to Popeye to make sure the weak are protected and saved from harm. Jesus is the savior of our souls and our ultimate rescuer and redeemer.
- Popeye is what he is.
Popeye always says: “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” What does God say about himself? “I AM WHO AM. This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: I AM sent me to you.”
Now I realize that a cartoon character doesn’t come close to our heavenly Father; but perhaps it will remind us to think more about the character of God. God is our Abba Father. He has His eye upon us and will always protect us. He is our savior. He is the great I AM. He is the One and only One we’ll ever need!