Wednesday, November 11, 2015

To Be or I Am

 By Iola Goulton

One of the most famous Shakespearian quotes is ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’. It’s from Hamlet, which I’ve never read so don’t really know the context, but I know that line. And I guess most of you have heard it as well. I read it recently, as part of a blog post, and it struck me that the world spends a lot of time living in the TO BE.

We ask children, ‘what do you want TO BE when you grow up?’ We ask their parents what they want their children TO BE.

In job interviews, we’re asked ‘where do you want TO BE in five years?’

TV advertising tries to tell us to use their product in order TO BE richer, prettier, more handsome, more clever, more … the list goes on. We even hear it in church. We’re asked if we want TO BE a Christian, which shows TO BE isn’t always bad … except when we focus on it too much.

And it’s easy to focus too much on the TO BE. As writers, we’re forever being told what we ought TO BE doing. Writing, promotion, revising, building a platform, editing, social media, reading craft books, marketing, reading books in our genre, more marketing, reading marketing books, reading books outside our genre … Sound familiar?

In grammar terms, TO BE is future perfect tense. TO BE is always talking about the future, about becoming something different. It seems TO BE (ha!) that the purpose of TO BE is to motivate us to try harder, to achieve more. But this always wanting more, always seeking more, always striving for more … TO BE often leaves us overburdened, stressed, dissatisfied, and looking for some way to ease the strain.

As Christians, we know the answer is the One Way, Jesus.

Jesus is the I AM. He says:

I AM the bread of life. 
I AM the light of the world. 
I AM the good shepherd. 
I AM the way, the truth and the life.
I AM not of this world. I AM the resurrection and the life.
I AM the vine and you are the branches. 
I AM in the Father and my Father is in me.

I AM is different from TO BE.

I AM is present perfect tense. I AM is now. I AM is resting in God. I AM is a relationship with Jesus. I AM is knowing the Holy Spirit is always here. We don’t have to wait. Waiting is TO BE, not I AM. I AM isn’t reaching, striving, seeking, trying TO BE counted as good enough against a standard we don’t understand and can never reach.

We don’t have to do any of that, because Jesus did that on the cross. Our role is to accept that gift. I AM reminds us we need to wait—not TO BE but to quiet ourselves so we can hear the I AM and be reassured and restored in Jesus.

Our role is to rest in the I AM, to accept the gift of IAM, to seek God’s will today and be obedient to that. Not to worry about the TO BE of tomorrow—God has the TO BE of our future under control, and it will all work out according to His plan … as long as we can focus on the I AM of today.

I hope and pray this thought encourages you today.

IOLA GOULTON lives with her husband, two teenagers and cat in the sunny Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, between Hobbiton and the Kiwifruit Capital of the World. She holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting and freelance editing, is active in her local church and plays in a brass band. 

Iola is a reader, reviewer and freelance editor who is currently writing her first novel, contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist, and her first non-fiction book, which aims to help first-time authors navigate the changing world of Christian publishing.

Connect with Iola at and

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  1. As one of those first-time authors I certainly relate to the pressures of trying to figure out how to successfully market my historical novel. And having to do it while working full time as a missionary in Hong Kong. Thanks for the I AM reminder. You expressed it well.

    1. Marketing is a challenge that is still in my future - I'm still at the stage of trying to learn as much as possible in advance. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I AM grateful for the reminder. Great thoughts. :)

  3. Thanks for the timely reminder, Iola. Affluent, western nations do promote a restless, TO BE sort of attitude, which it's easy to be drawn into without reminders to stop and reflect.

    1. Thanks, Paula. It's hard to step back from the rush-rush-rush of our busy world, but it's something we have to do if we're going to retain any semblance of sanity!

  4. Iola, wonderful reflections. Was thinking along similar lines as I left a breakfast meeting this morning. The temptation to chase "To Be" is so strong and I find is as prevalent in the Church as outside it. When the fundamentals of the gospel are that we to rest in the I AM.

    Your post reminds of that old chestnut that the gospel is as much for we believers as it is for non-believers.

    Thanks, Iola.

    1. I agree, Ian! I've had a day full of TO BE, and needed to read this today as much as anyone.

  5. Hi Iola, I love the wisdom and insights in your post. Interestingly, this is the essence of my hero's internal conflict in my current story. Thanks for visiting with us today :)

    1. Thank you for inviting me, Narelle. I'll look forward to finding out how your hero deals with the I AM and the TO BE.

  6. All the more poignant when you do consider the context of Hamlet's soliloquy - wherein he contemplates whether suicide is a worthy option; should he continue to be (exist), or not to be (exist).

    To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks (70)
    That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause: there's the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life;
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
    The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay, (80)
    The insolence of office and the spurns

    1. There's probably another post in that! Thanks, Mazzy.