“I Am” is Enough

Near my house, there is a grassy area. Not lawn grass or golf course grass, but that kind of longer, crazy, wild grass that looks like someone should come along and bail it for livestock feed. Mixed into the grass are some shrubs of various kinds, here and there, to give it that particularly undeveloped look.

Out of the middle of this grassy place grows a tree. It is taller than people’s ornamental trees, but shorter than many of the other evergreens in the area. It has a very conical and symmetrical shape, with no crazy branches sticking out or branchless areas. It is very straight, and it stands alone, which gives it this stately, reliable quality.

The deer like this tree very much. They eat under it and sit under it, bedding down in the crazy grass. I’ve learned to look for them there every time I pass, because frequently I see them there. The tree does not change when the deer come to it. As some kind of evergreen, it does not even drop apples for them. It’s just… there, regardless of whether they are or not. But the deer gravitate to it. They enjoy the benefits of its presence. Just its very act of being is meaningful and beneficial to the deer. The very nature of what the tree is attracts the deer.

I have driven by that tree countless times, but last week was the first time I felt I wanted to sit under the tree, too. It dawned on me that this is what God meant when He called Himself “I AM.” He meant that the very nature of Who He is — apart from anything He does — is enough. Just being in His presence is enough. His very nature, as God, is sufficient, and it is attractive to us.

Last week, there was just one deer there, sitting under this tree. Both tree and deer were very still. Both were simply being what they were created to be while in the presence of the other. The deer was probably ruminating, which makes the whole scene even more metaphorical for what our lives could and should be like. We should be sitting in God’s presence, ruminating on that which we find there. And too, my simple act of being is enough. The nature of who “i am” is enough.

For what purpose were humans created? Judging by the first two chapters of Genesis, we were created to live in harmony with nature, leading the animals and eating plants and fruits. We were also created for relationship, with each other and with God. That’s it. The deer and the tree know this. The birds and lilies of the field know this, as Jesus pointed out. Mary at the feet of Jesus knew this. And Saul knew it after Jesus interrupted his zealous busyness with the blinding revelation of His presence.

Be attracted to the nature of God. Stop expecting things from Him. Stop expecting things from yourself. Ruminate in His presence. There is no 3-point sermon here. Just a simple admonition to stop investing being in doing, and to let the deer and the tree lead us in how we’ve all forgotten to be.

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Silence in Prayer

“As my prayers became more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent…. This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“She said ‘God'”

"Ooooo!" cat from the movie Puss in Boots

“Ooooo!”

I did. In an interview. For a position at a public institution.

It surprised me, quite frankly. They asked if I could work with people whose values are different than mine. I told them I could. I figured I should explain my position, since anyone can just say “yes,” knowing that’s what they need to hear.

My answer was not the standard evangelical “love the sinner, hate the sin” drivel. (I really hate that phrase, but that’s another story.) As I finished my statement, I looked at the interviewer next to me — the tech guy — and said with a grimace, “So…did I just pour hot water all over myself?” He said, “Well, you’re not melting yet!” Gotta love the tech guys. They’re always my favorite people.

The thing is, I’ve never been openly verbal with people about what I believe. If my religion required a quota for new conversions, I’d have been excommunicated long ago. So I did a lot of head scratching over why then, at that moment, did I share my beliefs.

I realized that in the last few years, I’ve become authentic. A few quality crisis-of-faith moments will do that to you, I suppose. I realized that for most of my life, I’ve had a problem with some evangelical stances on certain issues, but I was never able to discern why, much less figure out what it is I do believe.

So when I did make a statement about it, it didn’t come from religious obligation — it came from authenticity. That’s why I said it, and why I apparently had no hesitation — because I know it to be my true beliefs. I forgot for a moment that it was an interview, because it felt that we were having a real conversation about meaningful things, like values and religion and humane behavior in the workplace.

It may have cost me that job — I’m really not sure. Next time, I’ll simply say “Yes,” and leave it at that. But I don’t regret it because it’s one of the first times in my life I was authentic and comfortable with who I am and what I believe to be true.

That’s something money can’t buy.