2012 and 2013 were particularly difficult years for me. On the stress charts there were several events that infiltrated my life that most certainly occupy many of the first 5 places on those charts. A marriage of 33 years looks to be breaking apart, I’ve sold a business where I was expected to be employed after the sale for quite some time that doesn’t materialize, I move and become primary caregiver for an aging parent, and then try and decide what life looks like all over again at age 55. New career, new relationships and an all around new life. Wow. Welcome to my nightmare. Or so it seemed.
But God…… I’ve heard that phrase a few times BUT this time it had a whole new meaning.
I grew up in a fairly normal household, according to most people’s standards. At least that’s what I thought. But a whole new understanding of how past traumas, let’s call them wounds, lies and losses, have had such a profound impact on my ability to know myself and know God in the way he originally intended. After all, the Garden experience was supposed to be permanent. Walking and talking with God was the norm of the day. Then that slithering snake twisted the truth and our God given free will executed turned us sideways. For some reason we wanted to be like Him and know good AND EVIL. Problem is we really didn’t know what evil was until then, so our real reason was more self-serving than that.
Back to my story.
As God began to expose those wounds, the lies and the losses, it became much clearer that my brokenness was driving me in every direction but toward God. I was seeking to fill the spot in my heart, uniquely reserved for Him, with everything this world had to offer. What a distraction. The same distraction that Satan used to tempt Eve and Adam to sin against God. I had a very authoritative Father. Distant. Involved only to the extent that he could drive performance and perfection to new levels. Let the beatings begin when it didn’t happen quite right. I did deserve a few of them though. But man, that’s how I saw God. In that same way. Kick my butt if I get out of line. What does out of line really mean anyway? My Father’s interpretation who had his own wounds needing healed.
In Ephesians 1 Paul gives us an amazing insight. “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” ESV
That part where he chose us before the foundation of the world. That’s pretty powerful. He knew us before we knew us.
David wrote in Psalm 119, “13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
You do understand the implication here don’t you? The fix is in. Yeah, well tell that to a guy whose life is falling apart at 55 and expected to be a whole lot more “successful” than this. There in lies the problem.
You see, identity is a funny thing. I took on the world’s idea of what success looked like and linked who I was directly to that. God was a little bit like Dad. Strict, distant, and expecting me to perform at super human levels and please everyone else along the way. Ugh, see how the devil messed up that message?
But here’s the TRUTH. God has made us as unique as snowflakes. Not two alike. Gifted in ways that no one else can match. Part of the Body of Christ. The one that was knitted together in Mom’s womb. No mistake.
With a New Name on a White Stone
Check this out. It’s in black and white. Totally inspired by God, written by John on a remote island nearing the end of his life.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17.
You heard it right. A new name that no one knows except you. Problem is that I didn’t ask Him what that new name was or is. Did you? Well I did now.
Tucked away in the mountains outside of Colorado Springs God led me to a “Wild at Heart” boot camp led by John Eldredge and his team at Ransomed Heart. I was given the audio book to this best seller earlier in the year and knew this was it. The rescue that God had in mind. Little did I know it would forever change my life, change my view of myself, and my understanding of God. It was the first time I even suspected there was a NEW NAME for me. As John challenged us through this long weekend to go deeper into this question, along with many others, God showed me my future. Not specifically, but generally. He revealed that new name. All that went with it was further revealed over the next 5 years.
As you read on to Revelation 2:19 you’ll see why. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” There it was. Not work, work as in performance or people pleasing. But God’s work through me. A freed up me. One that understood my calling, my name, my mission. First it was to become more like Him, then it was to reflect Him. Then again, I was told that the journey was to be more like Jesus since I first heard about him. But it never became real until I found myself broken and willing to consider that on a much deeper level. Ready to pick up my mat and walk; to be healed. Willing to dive much deeper into this question of identity. Identity in Christ.
G.K. Chesterton was one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. A convert to the Catholic Church but hailed as a defender of the faith and an articulate champion of Christianity, virtue, and decency. Chesterton wrote nearly a hundred books during his lifetime, and literally thousands of essays, in newspapers and magazines. He said this:
“Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are.”
But God…. Has called us to be much more.
Charles Spurgeon said, “I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank and a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is. Find out your niche’ and fill it. Do something in this great battle for God and Truth.”
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Mark Twain. It’s perfect for this moment to encourage us all to seek this name that God has for us. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Wow. Perfect.
Story is one of the best ways to pinpoint in parallel the gifts that God has given. Look at all the great ones. There’s a hero, a heroine, and then there’s a villain. At some point in the story the hero proves himself to be just that, but not before being challenged by evil to do the right thing; or in many cases to give in to the wrong thing. To choose the valiant path and rescue the heroine. Don’t forget about her. It’s God’s story. It’s the story of this life that we lead. The battle between good and evil. Between right and wrong. Between life and death. For eternity.
The movie “Gladiator” is one of my favorites. Remember Maximus? Maximus is a general and loyal subject to King Marcus Aurelius. His son Commodus has taken over after the Kings death and is threatened by Maximus’s influence. He has Maximus killed (or so he thinks) and his wife and son. Maximus actually survives and was traded as a slave. Good for nothing, “you serve me” his master said. It gets worse, he then becomes a Gladiator fighting to the death of someone. Destined to die himself at some point. His purpose? To be fed to lions and entertain the masses. But he defies a nation. Commodus comes to him after Maximus wins a massive victory but doesn’t know who he is behind the helmet. Until he speaks. But has Maximus forgotten who he is? No way. Not a chance.
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
Sending goose bumps down my spine right now. All the pain and misery in his life hasn’t changed the fact that he knows who he is. His true purpose.
I want to be that man, do you? To know my name and my destiny. To be called out of this crazy world into something bigger than myself. Imagine the cloud of witnesses in heaven cheering us on. Just like the crowds cheered and gave Maximus the thumbs up for life, in defiance of Commodus.
No more will I have to prove anything to this world. Trying to navigate the treacherous waters of influence by the enemy that seeks to destroy us. Freedom is on the horizon. But don’t lose heart, we do have a purpose and destiny to live out on this earth. Waiting for the day when all things will become new.
How about Abraham who finds out he’s going to be the Father of the nation of God’s chosen people. At what? 100 years old. It’s never too late to fulfill your destiny. And Moses floundering around in the wilderness for 40 years after killing an Egyptian and running from his own adoptive family. Crazy. Then he comes back to free the captives and lead the most significant flight in history. To this side of the Promised Land. Set up for Joshua to finish that journey.
I can sell a failing business, lose my wife of 33 years, lose my job, go broke and start a new career in 2 years and God still can fix my broken parts. Better than ever. Gotta love that.
What can you take away from someone who has lost everything?
I came across this quote from Edmond Clowney (a theologian, educator & pastor): He said “Every true church is composed of losers, those who have lost everything for Christ’s sake but have found everything in Him”
So, what exactly is it that a Christian has lost? Well, everything that holds power in his or her life that isn’t Jesus.
A follower of Jesus has lost the desperate need to prove themselves to God or earn his love and affection.
A follower of Jesus has lost the endless desire to find joy in anyone or anything other than God.
A follower of Jesus has lost the need for approval that leads to the reckless sacrifice of themselves on the altar of other people’s demands and wishes.
A follower of Jesus has lost the endless search for their identity and they found their identity in Christ.
We’ve lost a million things in Christ and we’ve gained a million more in Him.
Where in the world would the notion come from that in great loss, tragedy, sin and despair there is great good that can be brought from that? Where exactly was that demonstrated?
Of course, IN JESUS.
Remember this, Jesus plus anything equals nothing. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
You will never live beyond the way you see yourself. Even if you think you know who you are. You can think you know but you may actually not. You may have fought bravely but died quickly in that attempt. The deepest and most important part of the battle is to know who you are. Your mission and calling are centered around your NEW NAME.
Lord, could it be true? That you have Ransomed Us? Paid the full price?
We can leave the script, the vows we made with ourselves, our identity restored? Lord is that possible?
A turning point where our relationship unfolds? Could it be true that we can regain what’s been stolen from us?
I experienced it first-hand. You need to Trust Him and Ask Him.
He has a new name for you.
I heard loud and clear at that boot camp in the Rocky Mountains outside of Colorado Springs: MIGHTY Man of Valor – WARRIOR. The name that Gideon was given. An ordinary man chosen by God. That’s most of us.
God wants to Father you, Jesus wants to shepherd you and the Holy Spirit wants to bring healing into your life. Your identity is secure, your name is unique, and God wants to reveal that to you. Just ask Him.