Photo: “The Granite Cross” by Tobias Lindman
When Moses first encountered God and was told to go and lead God’s people out of slavery, he asked God what he should say if the people asked who sent him. God replied, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14).
In John’s gospel, Jesus was nearly killed for blasphemy when He identified Himself with this God who had made Himself known to Moses: “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am. At this they picked up stones to stone Him …” (John 8:58, 59)
Elsewhere in John’s gospel, Jesus made seven profound “I am” statements (“I am the bread of life … the light of the world … the gate [for the sheep] … the Good Shepherd … the resurrection and the life … the way, the truth and the life … the true vine …”). Jesus identified himself as the great “I AM.”
The Lord of “What Is”
What “is” simply is. One perceptive author has pointed out that it is insane to resist what is. Wishing or wanting doesn’t change what is. Praying can change what will be, but praying doesn’t change what actually is now.
Many of us struggle with powerful negative emotions like guilt, shame, fear and anxiety that threaten to overwhelm us. Few realize that these emotions involve living either in the past or in the future. The gospel, on the other hand, is a powerful call to stay in the now, the present, because the great “I AM” is the Lord of what is.
Our present circumstances, whatever they are, constitute “what is” … whether struggling in a bad relationship, with cancer or an addiction. Whether right or wrong, whether we want to be there or not, the fact remains that we are simply there.
The Christian life is often compared to a journey. Whether starting for the first time or taking it up from where we left off last night, we can only take up a journey from where we actually are. Being lost is not knowing where we are. Taking up a journey without knowing where we are starting from results in our being even more lost than we were before.
Guilt and shame come out of our past. They come from things we have done, or failed to do, or things that have been done to us. Fear and anxiety come from the future. We project a bad outcome into the future, then live today as if that bad outcome were already a reality. When we start from the past or from the future, we are starting from the wrong place.
2 Corinthians 6:2 reads, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” We never experience anything, salvation included, except in the now, in the present. We can remember things from the past, anticipate things in the future, but we can only actually experience things in the present.
Remember how you felt the first time you saw a picture of a starving child? Guilty? Ashamed for not having done enough? Fearful and anxious that responding would drain everything you have? Guilt, shame, fear and anxiety paralyze us. Unless we get past them, we will never respond to life in a meaningful way.
Jesus, great “I AM” and Lord of what is, said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). This rest is for now, and it is where we start.