Last week I had a tremendous opportunity to join 800 or so other women who are in elected leadership of their religious congregations at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly. It was an amazing experience on so many levels, but if I had to share just one take away, it is this line from the keynote by Sister Janet Mock, CSJ:
“Notice that God does not say I WAS nor I WILL BE. God is I AM. What a profound consolation that is for us today, in these times. I AM here, I AM with you. I AM light. I AM within Mercy, Charity, Providence. I AM Divine Compassion. I AM in the many faces of Mary, Joseph and Jesus; of Benedict, Scholastica, Catherine, Dominic, Clare, Francis. I AM with you until the end of time. Allow yourselves to sink into that truth: I AM with you.”
I have indeed been letting myself sink into that truth. God’s very name, spoken and recorded in our sacred texts, means that our God is a God of the present moment. God is there in every moment, with me, with you, with us. Loving us, present to the mix of confusion and joy and frustration and grief and satisfaction and generalized grumpiness and inexplicable peace that is life as a human being who is paying attention, or not paying attention as the case may be.
Perhaps that is why the movie Inside Out touched me so much. I recognized my own mix of emotions which drive me, and the ones that I push to the outskirts or send on wild goose chases so they stop bothering me. My main driver of course is anxiety.
But what Janet said adds a whole new dimension to the equation, and one that is so obvious when I stop and think about it. God says I am there no matter who is in the drivers seat.
I remember when my mom was very sick, and later after she’d died when my Dad was in ICU after emergency surgery and I was there on my own until my siblings could get there. In those days which felt like a lifetime I had some of the most intense experiences of God I have ever had. My defenses were down and my need was outsized, and so I suppose I was able to notice the I AMness of God in the moment. It was pure grace, and in that moment my relationship with God began to be more mature and real.
Other times when I am at the ocean or I’m among the trees I am so awestruck at the incredible beauty of God’s creation that I catch my breath and have a fairly intense burst of gratitude and a definite God moment. At those moments when I cannot help but see the God who is and who created every good thing, it is easier then to be present to God and God’s love.
But God is I AM even when I am not paying attention. When I am distracted by many things to do or anxious about this or that. When that person does that thing, again, and pushes all of my buttons. Or when I push hers. When I am just tired out or confused or busy just making it through the day. When I am too busy to notice that God, I AM, is with me, nevertheless so it is, even then.
Of course, if little old me is honest, these moments are the majority of my life. I can get stuck too in the past, in what I should have done or what I missed out on, just as my anxious planning self can miss out on the present moment by having my head too much in the future.
But the invitation of Janet’s words is to let it sink in that God is present, with me, even then. I AM with you, God says, when you are too distracted or anxious or annoyed or tired or confused or busy to notice.
The spiritual life is just that, life, and the invitation to growth and transformation and compassion and love and peace and justice is to let God be God … Always.