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Called, Named, & Known

April 1, 2015

I’m not a morning person by any means, but I’ve been moved during this Lenten season to try to spend a few moments of peace in the Word and in prayer before rushing out the door to work.  If anything, I get from this time a brief sense of grounding, a gentle reminder of who I am and the God I serve, before I have to face my students, or my coworkers, or any of the brokenness and despair that comes with teaching where I do.

So after last-minute printing of lesson plans and packing my lunch this morning, I found a brief few minutes to sit down with a cup of coffee and read the lessons for the Wednesday of Holy Week, when this verse stopped me with that sudden, wrenching moment of awareness that scripture often brings.

The Lord called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.

Isaiah is talking about Christ, of course – and you shall call his name Jesus – but it reminded me, here, of what it means to be so deeply called and known – named – by our Father.  We are not accidents or arbitrary coincidence, but “knit together” with purpose, as the famous psalm reminds us; we were “called from the womb” into this world, broken and hungry for redemption; we were named and known and loved even before our bodies and spirits were fully formed.  And even now, with our bodies and spirits both a little worse for wear of this world –  we are still named, and known, and loved by the Great Shepherd.

What has marked this season of Lent for me has not been the fasting, or the morning quiet time, but rather moments of deep conviction about my own depraved and wretched heart.  A few weeks ago, with my small group gathered around the firepit, we were talking about what God is doing in our lives (because I am overwhelmingly blessed with a small group that is willing to be intentionally vulnerable around a firepit!).   And I said a few words without really thinking through them, but knew immediately that it was one of those moments where the truth comes to you with sudden clarity; your words form without conscious thought what your soul has only been aching, in wordless lament.

“He’s been teaching me about my own woundedness, and how that reverberates in the lives of the people around me.”

I said it, and I realized that it was true.  So much of this season has been seeing anew the deep wounds of my heart, and the waves they stir up that spill over into every other little piece of my life – my relationships, my work, my communion with the body of Christ.  It’s been a time of new and deeper uncovering — more layers, more rawness.  He has been gently and firmly shepherding me into these times of contemplation and insight, as wound upon wound is opened.

And, I hope, beginning to heal.

One immensely comforting and helpful resource in this process has been Kyle Strobel’s book Formed for the Glory of God, about the spiritual practices of Jonathan Edwards.  In particular, Kyle mentions the notion of soliloquy:  “holding open the truth of yourself and speaking into that truth … a way to pray ‘without You I can do nothing’ with a specific aspect of your heart that needs healing … ”

The Spirit prays from our spirits about the truth of our brokenness, depravity, and sin.  The Spirit is not mistaken about who you are.  You are the one who is ignorant of your heart.  Soliloquy is a practice that acts in faith that the Spirit is searching and praying from your heart, and that, particularly in prayer, he will unveil your own heart to you.

Not the most pleasant of spiritual practices — but certainly revealing.  New upon new depths to my heart; and new and overwhelming confidence of God’s grace, covering even this, and this, and this.  I did not know my heart held these things.  I did not know You would redeem them, also.

And so, out of this season, it was not without a measure of comfort that I encountered those words in Isaiah this morning.  No matter what the Spirit dredges up from my heart, I am even still the beloved, named, called-forth daughter of a heavenly Father.  I named your nameyou and all that you are.  I know you and I see you, and I forgive you, time and time again.  Words of infinite and unknowable grace.

Oh Father, lead me further into the great depths that only You can bring to light.

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