Who Am I? Genesis 1-3: A Bible Study for Graduate Women
Gifted Bible Study leader and InterVarsity Graduate Faculty Ministry staff Sally Ivaska developed these seven studies for use by graduate women. The topic for these studies, “Who Am I?,” was suggested to Sally by the women of the Northwestern University Graduate Christian Fellowship. It grew out of a conversation that began with a reading of The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner and a heartfelt need to discover identity in a Christian context.
After field-testing the studies with graduate women’s groups, we received the following responses:
“The questions generated such good discussion that we were always struggling to finish.” — Kathy McCready, GFM staff in Milwaukee
“We really enjoyed the study. I personally RELISHED the opportunity to discuss these things we all as women in our 20s experience and think about, but seldom, IF EVER, verbalize to one another. I can’t remember the last time I spent my time, especially social/fellowship time, so meaningfully and enjoyably. Thank you for blessing us in this very special way.” — Jennifer Nelson, grad student at Emory University
We have provided the first study here. The complete set of seven studies are available in booklet format in this attached pdf. You have permission to reproduce and use the material for individual or group studies.
If this is the your first time to lead a Bible discussion or you would like some additional direction, see Sally’s companion article, Leading a Group Bible Study, also included in the attached pdf.
Who am I in relation to God?
When asked the question “Who are you?” most of us respond with “I’m a student,” or “I’m so and so’s sister,” or “I’m a musician.” In other words, we tend to think of ourselves in light of the roles we play, or what we do, or in relationship to someone else in our lives.
But who are we in relation to God? Who has he created us to be as women? That’s what we want to explore in this study.
1. Where does your sense of self come from? To what extent has it been influenced by your abilities, appearance, achievements, race or ethnicity, parents, teachers, cultural expectations for women, what you do, how peers’ respond to you, etc?
Read Genesis 1:25-31.
2. From this passage, what do we learn about how God created human beings?
3. Genesis 1:25-27 describes God creating humankind in their own image. The New International Dictionary of the Bible (Zondervan, 1987, p. 462) describes it like this:
“. . . man has been made like God in a way that the rest of creation has not. . . The Scriptures do not define precisely the nature of the image of God in man, and we should be careful not to single out any individual aspect or attribute of man as if it were in a special sense the ‘image.’ It is rather man in his entirety that is to be thought of as in the image of God.”
What do you think it means to be purposefully created in God’s image? (Depending on time, have each person respond to at least one of the words below.)
(Also read Psalm 8:3-9. Note that the word often translated “angels” or “heavenly beings” is the same Hebrew word — aleim — used for God in Genesis 1. The New American Standard translation uses “God.”)
4. How does this truth about your identity — that you are God’s image-bearer — influence how you think and feel about
your studies or profession?
your moral choices?
your relationship to God?
your relationship to others?
(Again, you may ask each person to choose one or two of these to answer.)
5. In what area of your life is this truth most difficult to absorb or apply? Why?
6. What is it about how God created you that influenced your choice of discipline or profession?
7. (If time permits; otherwise skip to question 8) Read 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15-20. If Jesus is God’s perfect image-bearer, then he is our role model. In his earthly ministry, how did Jesus model a secure identity? (For example, see John 13:1-5)
8. How has this Scripture challenged your sense of self?
9. In what areas do you need God’s help to think biblically about who you are?
Spend time praying for each other, asking God to conform your thoughts about yourselves to the truth of his Word.
For more from Sally Ivaska, download the complete study guide here.
Sally Ivaska is the wife of David, mother of four sons, and proud grandmother of Zadie Marie. She has a master of arts in teaching from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University. Her passions — small group Bible study and all things cross-cultural — have taken many forms over the years: hosting international students, coordinating small groups for her church, serving as the International Student Advisor at North Park University, and training African students to study Scripture inductively and write their own discussion materials.
I was at the grocery store the other day perusing the cheese cases and was excited to see they were giving away samples of gourmet cheeses. The woman handing out the samples engaged me in small talk, chatting about the delicious cheeses . . .