Anna Joy so honestly invites us into her story of allowing others to name her and what it has looked like to instead allow Christ to name her. I appreciate her wisdom, her challenge and her practice in renaming herself. I hope you enjoy her thoughts and find new names for yourself while reading them…- Willow
But who do you say that I am? Jesus asked this question. So do I. So do we all. Every day of our existence we wrestle with getting this question answered. We keep hearing this and that about the source of our identity, acceptance being found in those stupid social media notifications. And yet, here we are, the most lonely and most directionless generation. The heart betrays. Here I am, a grown woman, with a pretty good sense of herself, and yet, still looking, still hoping to hear something, to feel something outside what I reflect back to myself in rote.
Robert McGee talks about being defined by the voice outside of us. Original design is that we hear the Father’s voice speaking to us and we are upright, side by side with “the Other” receiving our identity from His voice. In the fall, we abdicated our rights and began bending toward “the Other” to give us identity. This was an original part of the curse, “and He said to Woman, you will have desire for your husband and He will rule over you…” There is this bending posture in that picture. Here we are thousands of years later, still bending, still our desire bends toward that voice outside of us, looking for our value, our worth, our identity.
Now, when Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”; Jesus, recognizing the voice of His Father in Peter, responded with His own blessing and declaration of Peter’s identity. And Jesus answered Him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Not only does He name Peter, but He declares and blesses an attribute of Himself in him. It’s not just an attribute of Jesus, but one of the foundational identities of the Trinity… the revelation that Jesus was the anointed, coming, promised Messiah of God, better than that, He was his Son! He has given us the keys of the kingdom of heaven and we have a role to play in bringing that kingdom to the earth! What a powerful moment. To be all at once formed and filled at His Voice.
There is all sorts of naming going on in the New Testament. Jesus meets and names several of his disciples, giving them identity before they even understand what it means. He becomes the voice outside of them. The world had named them “fisherman”, “Men of Galilee” basically, calling them hicks and ignoramuses. Jesus spoke with the “broad” accent of Galilee. It’s how the people recognized Peter when he was denying Jesus on the night of the Passion. But Jesus named them, “Man in whom there is no Guile” (Nathanial), “I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends.”
Jesus was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Jesus would have had a lot of pain and hurt because he grew up as a bastard. Everyone in his village would have known that Mary was pregnant out of wedlock, and He would have grown up as an outcast because of his sordid beginnings. Jesus would have sat for hours, hearing what his Father in heaven declared over Him. We have to wonder about those 30 years of silence. His heart being formed by the voice of His Father. When He heard it at His baptism, He wasn’t shocked; He had heard it before, “beloved Son, in whom I well pleased…” But those around Him had never heard such a thing. A dirty, rough Galilean, with a hick accent calling God, “Abba”! This was revolutionary! When we have the opportunity to name God, or God names an attribute of Himself to us, we get to carry that revelation to a broken and dying world.
God has named Himself to me, “I AM with you.” That is a personal revelation of God in my life, though it seems like everything points to it not being true. But here I am stuck with His voice in my head, “I am with you.” Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Just, “I am with you”. There’s no negotiation in that. No way for me to discount Him being there. And yet, I find myself spinning my wheels, denying the reality that has more substance than my personal experience. This season of my life has been hard. I have, admittedly, hated it. But in these moments, I am reminded that He is with me. That is the whole point of Him bringing me back to the shores of my birth. In this place where abandonment set in, He is with me. In this place of original rejection, He is with me. Where I was unnamed and unmade, He is with me, naming me, remaking me. He is out to prove a point to me. To fill what He has formed with his saying, “I am with you.”
Nothing feels right, nothing fits, and it’s all awkward and frustrating. I have walked into the wilderness, being led by Holy Spirit, and the only thing I have to nourish, to sustain me in this season are those words from my Father to me. And then there are those days where I refuse this heavenly manna, weeks sometimes go by, until I am stretched thin across my soul’s bones and dying of thirst, and when I cannot run to another distraction I hear that voice again. “I am with you”. Whispers deep, blood begins flowing into limbs again, warming me from the center, watering me, feeding me. Oh God. Why must I have such profound amnesia all the time? Why do I wait until the last threads are unwinding, when you are singing over me? “You deliver me because you delight in me.” This orphaned spirit in me still alive and kicking, trying to convince me of the power of the Fall, when the Power of the Resurrection is in my bones.
Small thinking, emaciated dreams, powerless to change. Here is where I come back to the beginning. I come to the end, which was intended to be my beginning. The finished work of Christ, my foundation. The same Spirit that raised Him from the dead, living in me, sealing me, as a down payment of my inheritance. If the fullness of the Holy Spirit is the down payment of my inheritance, then what the heck is the rest of it? This is why knowing your name, hearing your Father’s voice of love and joy over you is so important. If we don’t know what He declares over us, there is this huge sucking noise coming from our soul’s original design to be named by a voice outside of us. Who is doing the naming? Whose voice are you hearing above the rest? Do you believe the lies of: “I’m not worthy”; “I am alone”; “I am a failure”; “I am unlovable”?
Join me in taking a risk, and coming to a good Father. Sitting down with Him and asking Him, “Abba, who do you say that I am? What are your thoughts about me? What are your dreams for my life?” If Abba is too hard, picture a smiling Jesus, warm eyes, happy heart. I guarantee you that what you will hear will blow your socks off. Write down what you hear. It could be a small whisper, or a great joyful shout! Just remember, He loves you! It’s the motivation of everything He does toward us, His unrelenting, wild love.
I practice a “stream of conscience” style when I write the Voice of the Father. I don’t allow my negative thinking. I just put pen to paper and write, letting whatever comes out, come out. That might be scary for you, you can ask for scriptures or promises from the Word. But take a risk, put pen to paper and ask. Do this, do it regularly as practice, it might change everything for you, it did for me! – Anna Joy Walker