I think about the third and fourth chapters of Exodus all the time. This is one of those passages that goes in the Greatest Hits collection. You’ve got the burning bush, the admonition that the place we stand is holy ground, and of course there’s the “I AM” passage.
And don’t even get me started about Chuck Heston.
If you feel that you’re at the beginning of something big, something bigger, in fact, than you are, those two chapters are very powerful. That’s where I am right now. There is some very familiar territory here. I’ll go quickly.
The first lesson is expectancy. We are all looking for signs and miracles. It’s not unreasonable to wonder why we tend not to have seas parting, water turning into wine, or burning bushes in our everyday lives. I’ve got two connected answers to that question. First of all, every moment is an incredible miracle, amazing proof of spiritual presence. And second, until we see God at work in the small things, we won’t see Him in the big ones. We build our capacity to receive.
I’ll put that another way. If you were walking through the woods and saw a bit of shrubbery on fire, would your first thought be “Lo, surely it is the power of the Lord,” or would it be “Help! Somebody get Smoky the Bear and a fire extinguisher!”? Praise is a muscle.
The second lesson is related, but has to do with action. The Lord doesn’t appear to Moses in an externally sanctified, “special” place or time. He is there in the wilderness. Some times it’s only in the wilderness of our own lives that we’re ready, too. God tells Moses to take off his sandals, and that the place where he stood was holy ground. If God is everywhere, this is always the case, of course, but there’s something powerful in acknowledging it. Let’s try and treat every moment as holy.
Feet typically represent understanding in Scripture; that’s an easy one to remember because they stand under you. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a good example. He is cleansing their understanding. In this case, though, Moses is bidden to stand barefoot, to remove any barrier between his understanding and his experience. This has to do with getting rid of preconceived notions, ego expectations, and so on. This path is about breaking boundaries, tearing down walls, and removing layers of abstraction. When you’re deciding on your next course of action, ask yourself: “is this building a bridge, or putting up a wall?”
The third lesson is about identity. Moses asks the Lord for credentials. And you know the response:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, NASB)
When God is asked what His name is, He says “I AM.” This is important for all kinds of reasons, naturally. For one thing, it’s a reminder that this experience is not just material or even intellectual. I AM just is. Think about how you would describe being in love, for example. There are things you can point to, such as common interests, physical or emotional compatibility, and shared time. All of those things are beautiful and important, but none of them are what love is. If all we have is a pointing response to the Divine, something important is missing.
Also, if God’s name is I AM, what happens when we say, for example, “I am sick,” or “I am afraid?” There’s a commandment about taking the Lord’s name in vain. Prayer does not change God, it changes us. I cannot, by my words, make the Lord sick or afraid. But I can use my words to lower my expectation. When I say “I am sick,” I’m really saying “the best and highest of my understanding is sickness.” That kind of vision leaves less room for growth and miracles. Who are you, really?
These lessons, and ones like them, have been discussed before. You’re Unity, so I know you’ve been a part of those kinds of conversations. Lately, though, something new has come out for me; something I hadn’t seen before.
The “I AM” passage is part of a longer conversation between Moses and God, and upon rereading it it seems to me that Moses is asking for management authority. It’s almost as though Moses is saying “how can I do this?” I know the feeling.
But it’s not for Moses to do. The power doesn’t come from him, does it? Throughout this passage, the Lord reminds Moses that Divine, not human, power will be brought to bear. Moses is coming from a place of personal authority and responsibility. That orientation can get one far, but, as we see in Moses’ story, not all the way. The power comes from another place.
Maybe part of the “I AM” moment is a reminder of something we see throughout scripture. We see it when God is talking to Job. We even see it in the Bhagavad Gita. The idea is that the universe doesn’t fit between our ears. We are not here to make the miracle happen. We are not here to “own” it intellectually (or otherwise). We are here to bear witness. We are here to show the world what love looks like.
God is doing amazing things in our lives, right now. As we learn to look for them, as we work to remove the barriers of perception, and as we claim our identity as His children, something happens. We become part of the miracle. And that is the beginning of freedom for all of us.