“God said, ‘I will be with you.'” – Exodus 3: 12
I’ve been wondering, could God’s real name be “With”?
Here in Exodus, God had a plan: liberation. Moses had objections: Me? Why me?
To which God said, “I will be with you.”
As Jesus sent his disciples out into the world after the resurrection, he said, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)
God does not promise to take all obstacles from our path, or keep us from all peril and pain. God promises “with,” as in “I will be with you.”
When I think of those human encounters that feel most like a window onto God, what I have experienced is not a person who fixes things for me or tells me exactly what to do. I have experienced someone who is “with” me, who is present in such a powerful and real way that it makes all the difference in the world.
Such encounters may be a rough analogy for God’s way with us.
If so, what magnificent restraint this God demonstrates. How easily God could overwhelm us with answers, fixes, advice or interventions.
But this is not an over-functioning God. “I will be with you.” “I am with you.”
We may think we need a God who will do it all, who will protect us from every peril or pain. Do we? If my human analogies are any indication, that is not our deepest need. We do not need others to lead our lives for us or deal with our challenges on our behalf. But we do need a God who is “with.” With us. Fully present. Engaged.
“With”—it could be God’s truest name. It is what we really need. And what we have.
Emmanuel, God with us, thank you. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.