Curiosities of a Rambling Mind

Three God Statements

One Sunday afternoon, not quite knowing what to do with myself for the brief span that was left to me between the day’s scheduled events, I thought I might sit in silence. A Lenten study on spiritual discipline suggested that we should do this regularly, but I never seem able to find the time. Sitting quietly on my couch, my mind began to whirl with the things I had to do, the responsibilities I had forsaken, the things I had left undone, the people I had disappointed. It is no wonder that I try to keep myself busy enough to forget these things. But yet I sat and tried to listen.

While my mind was wandering, I considered one of my favorite phrases (ironic, given my typical state of mind): “Be still and know that I am God.” In particular I love that we are told that to recognize the presence of God requires us to “Be Still.” This suggests to me that there might have been type-A personalities back in the days when there was little more to do than to herd sheep; but it also suggests that frenetic activity for some of us may be a kind of avoidance. The simplicity of “Be Still” is deceptive: as I continue to learn, true stillness is not easy. This appeal — this exhortation — has become for me a powerful message: a reminder that there is much more to life than worldly accomplishment and busy-ness. Then what about the rest of the command, “Know that I am God”? What does it mean to know that God is God? Does it mean to feel the presence of God at all times? to perceive God in all things? to recognize that there are forces beyond our awareness or control at work in our lives? I can’t say that I know yet.

This got me to thinking (again) about Who, or What, is God? When Moses asked a similar question of the burning bush, the response was simply “I Am Who I Am.” As a child, I never thought this answer offered any clarification or explanation. Anybody could have responded with “I Am,” and we might have thought it very profound. But as I get older, I begin to see that this may be the only answer that makes any sense. Maybe God was making a proclamation, providing a distinction between the God of Israel and all of the other non-existent “gods” of the time: our God is. Or maybe God was making a statement truly beyond our comprehension. If God is the ultimate Presence of the universe, Creation is not an entity outside of God or next to God. Without God existence itself is impossible. To make any qualifying statement about God is limiting, and so God is identified completely and uniquely with the words “I Am.” In times of doubt, “I Am” may not seem to provide sufficient credentials. Yet the fact remains that the universe exists: somehow it came into being; it has a measurable beginning. For the incomprehensible vastness of space and the intricate and complex chain of events which wrought our very existence, “I Am” may be the simplest, most elegant explanation.

In my thinking that Sunday afternoon, I wondered if there might be anything else I could consider, a third statement by or about God to round out the package, as the sermon maxim goes “three points and a poem.” No sooner had I thought this to myself than the single word “Love” came to mind. By itself it can be both a command as in “Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or it can be a statement about the nature of God, describing our Lord and Creator as in God is Love: the One who caused us to be; the One who forgives us without question; the One who rescues us in spite of our own doubt and limited understanding; the One who came to us in human form and taught us and loved us and died for us.

In physics class I learned that gravity is the weakest of all the known forces of nature. We routinely defy gravity whenever we launch a rocket into space or even climb a staircase. But because it acts over infinite distances, because it is not polar and can’t be canceled by opposing forces, because it is woven into the very fabric of matter, gravity may one day bring an end to the universe as we know it, eventually conquering all of the other “stronger” forces. I like to think of Love in a similar way: Love may appear to suffer small defeats in the face of virulent hatred, prejudice, or greed; but Love is pervasive, contagious, enduring. Love is woven into the essence of our being; Love will not be canceled by opposing forces; and Love will one day conquer and remake the universe since by Love was all Creation once made.

I think I spent a very productive half hour that Sunday afternoon, sitting in silence, trying to listen. If nothing else, I now have a tiny litany, or even commands from God, that I can repeat to myself whenever the need arises. When I question or doubt, I will remember that God said “I Am.” Then I will remember that God tells me to “Be Still” so that I can know that God is God. Finally, God tells me to “Love” that I may be part of a new creation.

I Am.
Be Still.
Love.

  1. 23 Responses to “Three God Statements”

  2. By Myra on Apr 3, 2009

    Truth, beautifully written. Write more!

  3. By Bret Whissel on Apr 3, 2009

    Hi, Myra. Thank you!

    If there is Truth here, I’m absolutely sure it’s not the whole picture. But it is an attempt to clarify and understand what I think I believe.

    I appreciate your comment.

  4. By Myra on Apr 3, 2009

    I like the way you phrased that: what I think I believe. Sometimes I let my brain get too involved and I can think myself right out of believing anything. What a blessing it would be if I could live in a state of childlike faith — a constant state of being still and knowing.

  5. By Bret Whissel on Apr 3, 2009

    lol, I don’t know too many children to which the description “being still” applies… 🙂 (but I know what you mean!)

    I think it is often the case that we don’t understand ourselves: our thoughts, our feelings, our motivations, our beliefs. Sometimes it’s useful to take a closer look, break it down, test the boundaries, confront the inconsistencies. So the way I see it, I have a belief system, some tenets to which I cling; but I don’t always know what they are until I’ve tried to articulate them. Once I’ve tried to put an idea into words, it becomes something I can evaluate, refine, sculpt further. So what “I think I believe” is that set of things that has been through at least one articulation process, subject to further revision. 🙂

  6. By Myra on Apr 3, 2009

    Truly! Maybe my brain IS childlike in that it is RARELY still!

    I spent a good deal of my life trying to “look right” on the outside and never allowing myself to think about whether I actually believed what I was saying and doing. Living that way will make you crazy over time — and so some twenty years of therapy later, I have become a devotee of telling myself the truth.

    The process of determining the truth sometimes gets complicated and confusing; and I have found, like you, that getting the idea to words and the words to paper takes me a long way toward understanding what I think, know, believe, or just wish is the truth.

    And then there are those times when I just have to be the parent and put my childlike brain in time-out — it’s just safer all the way around!

  7. By Bret Whissel on Apr 3, 2009

    Reflecting on my previous comment, I think it’s probably fair to call this process some sort of Socratic method, self-inflicted.

    I am all for getting the outside into alignment with the inside, so kudos on taking brave steps in that direction. It’s a life-long journey, ridding ourselves of our own hypocrisy, and it’s hard work!

    Best wishes on the road, Myra!
    Bret

  8. By becmollet on Apr 4, 2009

    Hi Bret, Just want to thank you for your “easy” amoritization calculator! I have limited knowledge about accounting but wanted to explain “simply” to my daughter about what her loan was costing her.:) Then I started poking around and found your 3 God statements – how refreshing and reaffirming. Thank you for “rambling” and “being still” and allowing God to use you to bless others with your gifts/talents. Becky

  9. By Bret Whissel on Apr 4, 2009

    Hi, Becky. I’m glad you found the calculator informative and useful for illustrating the cost of borrowing money. I’m also delighted that you found something worthwhile in this essay. Thank you for taking the time to write!

    Bret

  10. By DoubleN on Feb 11, 2010

    Beautifully written. In particular, I’ve never heard the “I am” explained in quite that way. Thanks for sharing!

  11. By Bret Whissel on Feb 15, 2010

    And thanks for your kind response, DoubleN.

  12. By onemlw on Apr 24, 2010

    Wasn’t it Einstein who said “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”? I think he may have actually been speaking of the universe!

    Kinda like an ant tying to understand physics! Therefore,

    I think one of the most profound things ever said was “ignorance is bliss”! Whoever said that?

    Man’s intelligence only serves to further confuse him the more he has… So, without “faith” he is “hopeless”!

    All the while the so-called ignorant find faith more easily and happiness abounds within the comfort of that faith.

    While the intellectual eventually find themselves Agnostic without any for sure hope!

    Of all the things i don’t know of God only one thing i do know… He has one hell of a sense of humor!

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