To be, or…

There are words that get translated as “I am.”  It’s how God introduces himself to Moses.  It’s echoed through out the whole of the bible.  Jesus establishes his links to God with those words.

Arguably, it’s the most important statement of God’s identity in the whole bible.  On the surface, in English, it looks like 3 little letters.  We could be picky and point out that there is a space in the midst of those three little letters.  We could be deep, and discuss all those things those 3 letters imply.  Maybe, a little later I will make an attempt at being picky and being deep.  But for the moment, I want to be pretty straight foreword.

There is more than 3 letters and a space.  There is a period at the end.   If we had a tiny little ruler, we could measure that little dot.  We would find that it is the smallest part of the whole thing.  Sometimes it is the small things that change everything.

If the idea didn’t end there, the ways God might have ended it would have looked pretty important.  God might have said, “I am the maker of the Earth.”  He could have said “I am the creator of human kind.”  He could have said “I am in control.”  or “I am the designer and builder of the entire cosmos, white dwarfs and black holes and the gravitational constant and every element in the periodic table.”

Any one of those sentences would have been true.  In one sense, all of those things were implied by God’s statements.  People smarter than me, much more gifted with language have discussed the Hebrew words that we translate as “I am.” they talk about how the words imply God’s self-existence, God’s Omni-presence, his endless past, his profound presence in the present, his undenable future eternal existence.

All these things are well and good and true.  But there is something more.

I believe God was profoundly at work in the translation of the bible into English, in the decision to translate those words, “I am.”

“am” is a funny verb.  Because what happens after it utterly transform the meani.

If I say, “I am.”  and “I am nervous.” I have said two nearly opposite things.   To say “I am busy.”  is to say something quite different than to say “I am.”   Sometimes we all have this longing to “just be.”  This is quite the opposite of doing things.

If a sentence continues after the word “am” it speaks of how incomplete we are: something needed to be done.  If defines us do-ers, and it suggests that action is where our attention ought to be.

If a sentence ends with the word “am.” it defines us as be-ers.

We are made in God’s image.  I believe that one of the things this means is that we are fundamentally be-ers, not do-ers.  Some of the strongest and most powerful imagery in all of scripture is around God’s promise of rest in Him.  Some of the most damaging theological perversions are built around formulae of things we must do in order to attain this rest.

Sometimes, this gets abused.  When Jesus brought his closest disciples to the mountain top he revieled the true nature of things.   Jesus’ followers wanted to stay there.  James writes that a faith with out action is dead.  If God’s statement, “I am.” is a model for us, then his actions must be as well.  God is not with out actions.  The presence of the universe testifies to this.

So it is with us.  Our nature and solace are in the idea that we can simply be.  But this does not mean we can not, or should not act.  I suspect that when we really grab hold of this, if we truly rested in God, we would be deeply and profoundly enpowered, as we strike out into the world.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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