My four year old asks a lot of questions....a loooooot. Sometimes the answers require less brainpower: "Mommy, when little sister is 5, how old will I be?; Mommy, when little sister is 100, how old will I be?; Mommy, when little sister is 65, how old will I be?; Mommy, when little sister is 1 billion, how old will I be?" And I will spare you the other 10 minutes of the same stream of questions. Thankfully, my mental math is still strong so the arduous task of adding 2 was something I could withstand. Sometimes, though, his questions get me thinking; they are deep and come from a place of genuine desire to learn more about God and I am so incredibly thankful for his curiosity. Last week, he was inquiring about Jacob (son of Isaac) and the transformation that happened to this man. He asked about why God changed his name. If you are not familiar with the story (or for the sake of setting up the rest of my thoughts), I'll give you a quick fly over (which I saw so clearly when doing a recent study called Seamless):
Jacob was a bad mammajamma (one of my favorite phrases my husband uses). I mean he wasn't a mass murderer, but his heart was not filled with pure intention. His name actually means "heal grabber". He came out of the womb behind his twin brother (Esau) grabbing his heal as if to be like "me first!". From then on, he continued to be manipulative, living a life trying to trick his way into outcomes he desired - including taking multiple wives. Not exactly God's design here. BUT GOD! He stepped in and the Bible says they "wrestled". I don't know if this was a physical or spiritual wrestling, but either way, that's an intense interaction with our Creator. At the end, God asked who he was. He answered with his name. And told him, No, your name is Isreal.
Scripture is better than my fly over so I'll just leave this here.
This event (the entire Bible and our entire existence really) are accounts of redemption and regeneration: God stepping in and making us right with Him and giving us new life through Him. The most beautiful thing God can do is redeem His child. Free them from the captivity of their sins, and Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of redemption.
When we are redeemed, God gives us a clean slate; He throws our sins into an ocean that has no floor. He does it with open arms, too. He doesn't do it and then hold it over our heads. He does it out of pure goodness and love. He makes us new by breathing in new life and showing us our true identity in Him. He asks Jacob: what is your name? What he is really asking is "how do you identify"? Jacob means "heal grabber": and he surely was and that is where his identity laid. God's plan was bigger, it was better and it meant he was going to make Isreal right with Him so he could gain a new life. A life that would glorify and honor Him and fulfill the perfect will of our God.
Who was I before God called me? If God had asked me, what is your name? How would I have answered?
I would have struggled. At one point I was an athlete. I was, first and foremost, how I was performing on the soccer field and the fact that I was on that field. Injury carried devastation because it got in the way of who I was. When I no longer loved the game, I had to lose what I felt was a definitive part of myself to come to terms with not playing anymore...Then, who was I? Without even realizing it at the time, I was trying my best to stand firm on unstable ground. I would start to find identity in my current relationships or life stage...all of which have every bit of potential to shift right out from under me. Then the Holy Spirit moved in me; He took kindling that was going on around me to light the fire; God came down and wrestled with my heart, and that is when I left knowing undeniably that I am His. All that led to this moment was a beautiful and purposeful story of sin, redemption and regeneration. Without my struggle to find identity and realizing the insufficiency of identifying in those other elements of life, I would have never known the depth of my need and depth of happiness Jesus gives me. And that is rock solid, never failing, true identity. I will always be His and I can’t lose that, that has no end; and it allows me to navigate these relationships and roles He has put me in all that much more graciously and treasure them more deeply - and only to His glory. I boast in nothing but Him.
Take a moment to thank God for making you new again, or take a moment and ask God to lay on your heart a desire to follow Him and show you your identity in Him. I know I am so thankful.