The I Am When I Am Not

by Deanna Atkinson
Minister to Children & Families, 2BC Little Rock

 

I have been reading Parker Palmer’s book “Let Your Life Speak.” Repeatedly as I read the book I thought of Moses and realized how when reading through Moses’ story we see this working of meaning and purpose as he searches to find himself. My favorite theatrical telling of the story of Moses is the animated feature Prince of Egypt. The music is spectacular. The story is powerful and action packed from start to finish, but the scene that always gives me chills and brings me to tears, no matter how many times I have seen it, is when Moses stumbles upon the burning bush and God speaks to him.

“Moses, Moses, Moses,” God states.

Moses asks, “Who are you?”

God replies, “I am that I am. I am the God of your ancestors.”

Moses responds,  “What do you want of me?”

And isn’t that where we all are? We want to know what we’re supposed to do. And we go, the best we discern. Those burning bush moments become mere memories. With the way we mortals work in the struggle of life, doubts, fears, anxieties, and stress creep in and we realize I Am Not.

You say I Am Not when self-doubt and insecurities set in, but the I Am says just that. I Am.

Moses said the same thing to God. You’ve got the wrong guy God. I am a pitiful public speaker.

God responds (and in the movie in a booming way) “Who made man’s mouth, who made the deaf to hear, mute to speak, and blind to see? Did not I? Now go and I will help you.”

Go. Your identity comes from the fact that you are my child - made in the image of the Almighty Creator, valued just because you are.

You say I Am Not when life feels like a battle and you are afraid you are on the losing team, but the I Am says just that. I Am.

Life often feels like a competition and success is a driving factor. We want to win. But that race is tiring. When we realize there is an ebb and flow to the nature of life, and we let go of the rat-race, we can live in the constancy of God’s love. If we move with the currents and not kick and fight in the waters of life, we are transformed by remaining in his presence. There is a play of powers at work in life. We collaborate but are not always in ultimate control of the outcomes. Life is not out to overrun us.

Let go. Rest in my presence. I am here.

You say I Am Not when you are burned out, but the I Am says just that. I Am.

We live as if anything good or important is going to happen only when we are the ones who make it happen. We are quick to forget we are not the only force at work. Remember that the Israelites were saved at Jericho with help from Rahab - an Amorite prostitute - technically not one of God’s chosen people. Though she seems to be chosen after her actions proved her faith. He can and will use all kinds of people and forces to bring about His will. Because His will be done, His kingdom come.

There is no need to carry it all on your shoulders. Take my yoke.

You say I Am Not when you are not in control, but the I Am says just that. I Am.

We build our lives around systems and schedules to control the messiness and chaos of life. The fear of what we cannot control is often at the root. Letting go of the tight grip of those reins, allows us to trust that the Creator who made life from chaos will organize and hold our lives in his hands.

You do not have to hold it all together until your knuckles are white. Relax. Breathe. I am holding it for you.

You say I Am Not when you are afraid of failing, but the I Am says just that. I Am.

Failure is essentially the death of an idea or action. For many of the previous reasons listed above, we are a society afraid of death in a physical as well as metaphorical sense - to the degree that we avoid even the words death, dying, and died. But through death we are allowing life. Think of compost or the word Humus - it is ground or rotting matter that feeds other plants. This is the base root of the word humility. When we accept failure, in that point humility and growth occurs.

Give yourself the permission to fail because through death I will grow something new.  I am the way, the truth and life.

Like Moses, we head back out to the pastures where we work. We do life. And in those moments, the holy glory of the burning bush seems far removed. We need reminders because the realization that I Am Not echoes so loud. But in all reality, these are the points where God is revealed in our lives. It happens at burning bush moments, but more often, it is in the doubt, fear, and failure of working in pastures where transformation appears. Do not live from these places of anxiety but release, and submerge in the I Am. Because I Am Not.