Between “It Is” and “I Am” (6 of 6)

“Yes, very nice – but what does it mean?” This is the question the artist hears most often, in regards to their work — asked in a matter-of-fact way, as if getting to the bottom line were the whole point of creating art. Needless to say, it’s an awkward question for the artist to answer. Because if it were a question that could easily be answered – then what would be the point of creating the art? Is art supposed to be nothing more than a clever way of making obvious statements? If that’s it – then why bother? This is the problem with trying to explain the transcendent – every explanation of it reduces it . . . robbing it of the very quality that makes it transcendent.

It has long been the ambition of the modern era to search out an explainable answer for everything that exists, predicated on the assumption that whatever “it is” – it can be explained. It’s the belief that comprehension is merely a matter of a thorough examination of all of the working parts; all of the cause and effect dynamics; and all of the variant outcomes – because within the materialist framing of the universe nothing happens without a discernable explanation. All of this creates the illusion that our own understanding of things will lead us to a better outcome – as if all our choices were a simple matter of sifting through all the data for the best possible answer.

So now, imagine yourself as Moses standing barefoot talking to a flaming bush that never burns up, and out of that bush came the voice of God telling you to go back to Egypt, where you’re a fugitive, wanted for murder — so that you can tell the Pharaoh he’s got to set all of his Hebrew slaves free. Now, what part of this sounds to you even remotely explainable – other than as hallucination? Is it any wonder Moses had to take off his shoes? Clearly, he was no longer where he thought he was – he was in the presence of the transcendent . . . and now, his entire frame of reference has been shifted . . . never to be explained in the same way again.

I’m inclined to take this story of Moses (Exodus 3) as a template for how we encounter the transcendence of God. Because in a universe where we imagine ourselves the ultimate arbiters of “what is”, assuming that we have a sufficient understanding of existence – God declares himself “I AM”. . . and exposes just how inadequate our perception can be. For God is the only reality, because all things exist in him – therefore there isn’t an alternate reality of which we get to be the self-appointed curators . . . so there can be no claims of “it is” until we’ve reckoned with “I AM”.

In John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In response the crowd begins to pick up stones, reacting to such blatant blasphemy – because by claiming such a thing, Jesus was clearly revealing himself as God . . . a transcendent epiphany, setting the captive free. For the true nature of who I am, as the beloved of Christ, is no longer confined by the shallow dimension of “it is”, rather I am released into the vast expanse of God’s endless love that constitutes the “I AM” of Jesus.

So perhaps, we need to learn to walk barefoot through this life we’re given . . .

2 thoughts on “Between “It Is” and “I Am” (6 of 6)

  1. Yessss!!!! Florence and the Machines has a song “Never let me go” that makes me feel this way. Of ceasing trying to comprehend and releasing myself into the Great Ocean of God. Not sure what she was writing about, but it is all God to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two things: 1) the Poet Archibald MacLeish wrote something to the effect that a poem is not meant to mean something, (A poem should not mean
    But be.”)
    2) the very ancient tradition of not naming the God of Israel, the father of Jesus, echoes the whole tenor of your article – that God is a mystery beyond words, especially and including any name. Pope Benedict the 16th, a theologian, asked people to stop using the archaeological pronunciation of YHWH in songs and liturgy. I could not agree more.

    Liked by 1 person

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