Written by Mary Paul
From her column Dwelling with God
I have found that lately when I sit down for time with God I begin my journal reflections with the words “Here I am.” This, you will be relieved to know, is not meant to be a pronouncement, such as “Please take note of my arrival,” but rather a confession: “Lord, here I am—all of me—my joys and my worries, my successes and my failings, what I know of my present and what I can’t possibly know of my future.” I believe God’s response to all of us who write or pray along these lines is “Here I am”…or “I AM is here.” And thus, by God’s grace, a sacred meeting is created wherever we are in that moment and place.
The steadfast, ever welcoming love of God is expressed by the Hebrew word hesed. God’s hesed, while having no exact English language equivalent, expresses the persistent and unconditional tenderness of God, whose face is always turned towards us. A love that never looks away. Several years ago, our church had a series led by an Old Testament professor on the word hesed. There was a palpable sense of God’s spirit with us week after week as we gathered together and were introduced, through the lens of scripture, to a growing understanding that God’s lovingkindness is indeed deeper and wider than we had imagined.
When we say, “Here I am,” or when gathered as a group we say, “Here we are,” we are entering through a doorway that is always open, and we are greeted with joy and an embrace for we are home, we are known, we are loved! This is God’s Here I Am to us!
In Ephesians, Paul describes the deep belonging offered to all of us which arises from “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” (Eph. 3:17-18 NIV).
As we sit with all that we are before God, at the forefront of our thoughts is: “How am I to live?” It forms the foundation of any growth we hope to have, any discernment we hope to receive for navigating life. And while time set aside for prayer brings this question into sharp focus, it lingers as I head out my door into the activities of my day. I have learned (though I am still learning) that however much I still wrestle on how best to live, I realize that regardless of what happens, what I do right or wrong or even what news I might get, I am walking with The One who loves me, is with me, and is for me. This is, and will always be God’s hesed—God’s loving kindness to you and to me.
Have you felt it? Can you sense it now? I hope so, but it’s there even in those times when you can’t.
One strong memory of my youth is the overwhelming sense of vulnerability I experienced when walking the hallways of my junior high school. I felt small and unsure of how to navigate this new terrain. I struggled with the very present danger of social failure and the fear of being ostracized. My anxiety would often focus on a fear of tripping (both figuratively and literally) as I walked among or in front of those strange faces. But if a friend joined me, I found an ease and a lightness to my steps.
There are parallels to the fearful, anxious moments of life that have occurred since then and, yes, a good friend still helps. But even when I’m alone and feel small, vulnerable, and tripping (in one form or another) is a very real possibility, God speaks into those moments with assurance that He is my faithful friend along all the hallways of life.
This is not some exclusive relationship where God is with me, and I am with God, and that is that. Instead, my relationship with God—this hesed—is expressed in active love and mercy for others. Thus, we link arms with sisters and brothers, traveling with them down their challenging hallways. And we, you and I, by the power of the Holy Spirit say: “I am with you; I am for you, and I will walk with you as you navigate whatever today brings.”
Rev. Mary Rearick Paul, D.Min., is vice president of spiritual development at Point Loma Nazarene University.