I've always been fascinated with God calling himself "I AM." What a remarkable coupling of words! To imagine God whispering this to Moses, and Jesus declaring it boldly in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was even born, I AM!"
A deep part of me clings to the reality of I AM. But daily demands often suffocate my desire for him. That's why it's important to discover just how we can make I AM personal in our lives:
Challenge #1: Resolve
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun teaches that the Hebrew meaning of I AM is "I was, I am, and I will be." Now is a wonderful time to reflect on God's presence in your life, from birth to death.
• Imagine your heart as a courtyard with several doors leading to separate rooms in your soul.
One door is labeled "Past." When was I AM present in your past? Thank him for being there. One door is labeled "Today." Where is God present today? Thank him for being here with you now. Imagine the last door is labeled "Future." As you imagine what will be, are you willing to let I AM, who is beyond time, be present in your future?
Meditate on this visual image, taking the opportunity to unlock every door of your heart to I AM's presence. As you explore your inner courtyard, what doors do you want to keep closed? Where are you blocking his presence? Where would you like to experience more of him? Think of these questions as building blocks to a year of celebrating I AM in every corner of your soul.
Challenge #2: Notice
Calhoun suggests to "start noticing what brings you joy, what you desire, what gives you life," and asks, "When and how are you most able to connect with God?"
• Can you name ten different ways you experience God's presence?
They can be as simple as listening to worship music and as complex as traveling overseas. If you can think of ten, awesome! Consider adding a few more to the list each week. Now is the time to plan something new: a new place to serve, a silent retreat, a new way to study.
If you can't think of ten, use Calhoun's lead to help you discover those places you connect with God. The answers to that question are as varied as our personalities. Consider nature, music, dance; tutoring, leading, serving; studying, book clubs, or attending seminars. Jettison any thoughts of what the "right" answer is; instead turn to I AM who knows exactly what he made you to enjoy, and give yourself permission to experience him in those places.
Challenge #3: Overcome
The moment you embrace the idea of I AM, you must grapple with the more difficult questions of our faith. Where is he in suffering? How does I AM exist in our fear? What do we say to people who seem like they don't need God or are disinterested in him? Consider these thoughts:
• Laura Leonard asks, "Why do you think God has decided to display his power not only in strength but also in weakness?"
• Linda Falter says, "Why do we deem reprehensible the violence inherent in God's judgment, but overlook the violence of mankind that calls it forth?"
• A. W. Tozer says, "What I believe about God is the most important thing about me."
Try to answer these questions and think about the last statement. Use your Bible to seek answers. Ask a friend or pastor and read more on these topics. It can be scary to examine questions of your faith that you can't immediately answer. But God is faithful when we take steps toward a deeper understanding of him. Trust that he'll come through and bring you to a place of peace even as you consider the difficult questions.
Challenge #4: Begin Anew
In his article, "What Have We Done?" Lee Eclov states, "We don't usually get in trouble because we consciously rebel against God. We simply forget about him. We make decision after decision without consulting his Word or praying. We go weeks without examining our hearts or confessing our sins."
• Have you gone through seasons when you forgot about God?
Take a week to not make any decisions without consulting God first. This may be as simple as saying before every decision, "God, I acknowledge you as Lord of my life." In doing so, you may find that you have an extra measure of compassion and put others' needs before your own.
The beauty of God's presence is that he can use everything and everyone to bring you closer to him. Whether it's in the noticing, the questioning, or the repenting, the great Yahweh-Mekadesh (The Lord Who Sanctifies You) is at work in your life, giving you a gift that eclipses every difficulty: the gift of his presence.