that is as fundamental as claiming “I am.” The trivial questions “who am I?” and “who are you?” fall away and Moses replies with an exuberant affirmation of self and place. While Moses falls back into reluctance and skepticism, his initial response brings him into community with God, so much so that his “Here I am” begins to echo God’s “I am who I am.” Readily answering God’s call is more than making ourselves known as willing servants of God’s will; taking that step into a fellowship with God moves us closer to knowing ourselves. Moses feels powerless, unworthy, and without a home, but God, who doesn’t define himself by those worldly markers of identity, simply is who he is. This is frustrating to Moses, to all of us who want God’s name, who want to know the plan, who want all the answers right now, but God tells Moses just to follow and have faith that God will be close at every step of the journey. And in order to follow, Moses not only has to leave behind the home he is trying to make for himself in Midian, he has to leave behind his questions of insecurity and identity and move closer to God, move closer to “I am who I am” – an “I am” that is completely independent of accomplishment or name or position or place or reputation, and solely concerned with falling into the rhythm, however syncopated, of God’s plan. Following God’s call is about finding a home, yes, but it isn’t about finding a place. It’s about finding a person. It’s about moving closer and closer to the Godly “I am who I am” and further from the vain “I am who does this and studies this and likes this and hates this.” that
is more like a Facebook profile than an identity. God promises us, like Moses, a home, but that home depends so much more on our relationships with God than it does on the arbitrary place where our bodies happen to rest at night. God is not limited by location but by the willingness in the hearts of his people. Ours is a God of movement. God reminds Moses that he comes from a long line of movers. He is the heir of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and belongs to a lineage of “Get up and go,” even when the future isn’t any clearer than God’s vague instructions. We Christians belong to this heritage, and claim it every time we respond to need with action, move to a new place to start a new journey, or do something that frightens us because our trust in God surpasses our fear of the unknown. This story reminds us that moving around isn’t the means to a static end, but the way God chooses to enter into covenant with us and give us purpose and direction. We are wanderers, and God knows the way home. Now I’m back in Berkeley, depending on the kindness of friends and strangers alike because I am still living in transition. I have yet to find a permanent place to live, but God be praised, because I have a home. So welcome all to this strange land. Welcome to the wilderness. Whether you are a new student setting out on an unknown course of study or a veteran student in a later walk in life, welcome to a new day full of unexplored possibilities and unfamiliar terrain. And while this essay is no burning bush and I am no divine voice, welcome to this holy ground. •
tinley ireland is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, where she studied Comparative Literature in Italian and English as well as Religious Studies. She works as a campus ministry intern at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley.
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Fall 2008 | To An Unknown God
To An Unknown God's fall 2008 print issue, on the theme of social justice.