“I AM” is Present Tense

The phrase “eternal life” consists of two words that deserve to be unpacked. “Eternal” means unbounded in time. And “life,” by definition, involves development and growth. Every living thing is changing. To have “eternal life,” therefore, is to have eternal change, or boundless becoming—the state of forever turning into someone new. That state may be impossible for the earthly brain to envision, but if we have been given eternal life, then we have been given this much.

Compare that to the way we tend to live now. We live bounded, as though the ticking clock contains us. We live with mourning that never quite passes, feeling as though the turning of each year’s calendar further diminishes who we might be.

Those who have experienced forgiveness can appreciate that walking with God means leaving the prison of the past. Yet consider that the walk with God just as truly involves leaving the shadow of the future. The Lord’s very name conveys this: I AM. That name is present tense, a point that Jesus emphasized with the most profound violation of grammar ever spoken. John 8:58 has him saying, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The past tense could not continue through that sentence because the Lord is eternally now.

For us, though, the present tense is also the presence of tension. “Your word is a lamp to my feet,” says Psalm 119:105. This assurance is as much a challenge as a comfort. All we are given to see is where to step next. Is that enough?

It rarely seems so. We want more. We are split apart and struggling, because we are trying to sustain additional households for ourselves in both the past and the future. Our mortgage payments are regret to one and worry to the other. Meanwhile, God is not just eternally now, but also entirely now. And it is God, right now, who invites us into the joy of joining with the fresh and flourishing work that I AM is doing today.

To seek God, we turn away from our fascination with our own personal past and our own imagined future. Life is not found in either place, because the source of life is not found in either place.

To discover God, we open up the present.