I think about the passive voice. (Notice, I actively think.) I think about how, in the nineteenth century, people did not regard the passive voice as a sin. They contentedly filled paragraphs with variations on the verb “to be,” and no one uttered a word of censure. I think of how now we number overuse of the passive voice amongst the trespasses for which we must entreat forgiveness, the errors against which we warn youthful writers. I wonder “Why?”
To the interminable Hamlet’s inquiry, “To be, or not to be?” we answer “Not to be; to do!” We rush off in pursuit of actions to take, more likely to say “I run,” “I write,” “I teach,” than “I am a runner,” or “writer,” or “teacher.” We hesitate to define ourselves. Let us show you what we do; you may decide what we are. So the pace of life increases and increases, as each sentence, each moment, must contain an action word, and we lose our ability, perhaps, to simply be.
Does this explain, perhaps, a bit of our discomfort with the God who names Himself, not with a string of action verbs, but with one tremendous declaration of being: “I AM”? He does not leave Himself open for our definitions, does not say, “Call Me ‘God’ if you feel comfortable applying that name to the list of actions I represent.” No; He says “I AM.” He does not allow for debate.
Adding one tremendous trespass to another, not only does He dare define Himself, but He subjects us to the same definition, declaring identity we would construct of doings insufficient — our righteous deeds filthy rags — insisting that we look to Christ as the One in Whom we find, not our doing, but our being. Even when we acknowledge the poverty of our doings, declare ourselves worthless and unworthy, He silences that cry, too: “You are precious in My sight;” “You are Mine.”
He tells us “Be still . . . I am God.” Is it any wonder, in our world of dizzy doings, that we struggle, even with that?