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.