“”To be or not to be, that is the question …”, so says Hamlet in his soliloquy in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. He goes on to speak about “suffer(ing) the slings and arrows outrageous fortune” and then “tak(ing) arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.” It could be said then that the “to be” represents choosing to live and “not to be” wanting to die. “To take arms against a sea of troubles …” continues the theme of Hamlet’s uncertainty of wanting to live or die.
At times life gets to us all. We may even grow weary of living and wonder if life is worth it. But life is worth living and it all has to do with “to be.” Think of the call of Moses. He had gone from being a prince in Egypt to being an outcast with nothing but a bunch of sheep to look after. He must have wondered if life was worth living.
Then God called him and spoke to him out of a burning bush. Moses was out tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro when he saw an amazing sight — a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. Going to investigate, Moses met God in the midst of the fire. He was told by God that He had something for Moses to do — to go back to Egypt and set His people free.
But Moses wondered how he could do this since he was now just a shepherd with no kind of influence in Egypt anymore. Moses, being the humble guy he was — fearful was more like it — said that he couldn’t possibly do what God was asking of him. If he went back to Egypt what kind of reception would he receive? Would he be remembered as one who once had influence in Egypt or as the one who ran away after killing an Egyptian? He certainly had reason to be afraid.
However, God assured Moses that he would not be alone by telling him who He was/is: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.” And when Moses asked God what he should say when he was asked who sent him, God told him to say: “I AM has sent me to you.” (Ex. 3:14) Throughout this passage there is a very real sense of the “I AM”-ness of God. “I have seen their affliction …”, “I have heard their cry …”, “I know their sufferings …”, “I will deliver them …” and then “I will be with you …”. Throughout all of this there is a real sense of the presence of God; and a connectedness to what has gone on before. God was, is and always will be the “I AM.”
What was promised by God to Moses is also promised to us. The “I AM” of God tells us that we have the right “to be” because He promises His presence in our lives. In saying so, we are promised that “I (God) will be with you.” (Ex. 3:12) The verb “To be” tells us that we belong to God and that we are His children. And although the actual words “to be” do not appear in Exodus, their presence is implicit. Because God is, we too will be and we will have life and meaning in His presence.
Hamlet may have pondered if life was worth living. If you read the entire soliloquy, you will see that although Hamlet may have welcomed death, he was uncertain of what would follow — “but that the dread of something after death …” — so we see in Hamlet someone who is fearful of the present, but is even more terrified of the future; and so there was his conundrum. Does he live or die?
Fortunately, we do not have to make that choice for we have the full assurance of our future. That in God, through Jesus Christ, we are made whole. In short, we are “to be.”