Written by Alex Street
Your mind is burning out, your body is exhausted, and your soul is but a wisp of what it could be. Our culture is desperate for one simple practice: being here.
Our family loves road trips. We have three kids (six, nine and 12) that have the uncanny ability of never being bored. This makes road trips a lot easier, seeing as we don’t have to entertain them all the time. We still love coming up with games, stopping at unique sites and listening to books, but more than anything we simply love being on vacation together. Recently, we were all at the park having a fantastic time on a beautiful spring day when I turned to my wife and said, “I would love to be on vacation right now.”
Vacation. Why? We are here, together, now. Just like we would be if we were on holiday.
See, like you, I have difficulty living in this moment. Even when we’re having a good time, we wonder if it could be better somewhere else. Robert Farrar Capon says, “We spend a long time wishing we were elsewhere and otherwise.”
When Jesus showed up on the scene, especially through the narrative of John, we are treated to a master class in being here. He shows up where the people are, he meets their practical and spiritual needs (is there really a difference?), and he engages in conversations. He continually embraced the reality of the moment, but more than that he had the audacity to say, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Aside from sounding like really bad English grammar, this is a powerful statement about the presence of God and what we are being invited into. Jesus made other “I am…” statements you may be familiar with, inviting us to recognize in all our human experiences—darkness, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and even death—that God is saying, “I am here, are you?”
‘I am’ is an important phrase for us. ‘I am’ is a proclamation of identity, yes, but it is also a statement about presence. ‘I am’ means here. ‘I am’ means now. Of all the names God could have chosen in Exodus 3, God chose to be known as I AM. Not ‘I was’, or ‘I will be’ but ‘I am.’
But of course, this declaration of God’s name comes after the declaration from Moses.
While working one day, Moses was taken aback by a truly amazing sight—a burning bush that isn’t destroyed by the flames. He moves closer to it and hears a voice that simply says his name, “Moses, Moses.”
His response is astounding, “Here I am.”
To which the voice replies, telling him to take off his shoes because this is holy ground. I like to think that the act of taking off his shoes says something about choosing to stay a while. But the three words, “Here I Am” are vitally important as we interact with God and others. To show up and say those three words before you have any idea of what is to come, before you know if this will be enjoyable, entertaining, or excruciating. To say this is to claim you are living by a different rhythm, my friend.
To say, “here I am” says that you are living by the rhythm of something bigger than you. To show up and say ‘here I am’ is to reclaim that space as a place where the I AM is, was, and always will be. You get to recognize the presence of God and recognize your own presence in this space. It starts with three simple words.
So, yes I want to be on vacation, and yes I want to know what’s going on in the world according to Twitter, and yes I want to see what my friends are posting today, but I am learning that amidst all that noise, it is so important to be here with the people in front of me.
In all the movement around us, with all the information coming at us, with all the demands for our attention elsewhere and otherwise, the best step might just be to take off your shoes, stay a while, and say “here I am.”