August 12, 2014 is not a date I’ll soon forget. It was the first time that someone asked me the question, “What name does God call you?” To say that I thought the question was a little odd would be under-selling my sentiment at the time. I’ll be honest, it was weird. I’m all for people having a genuine encounter with God, myself included, but the hyper-spiritual is not usually my cup of tea. That’s exactly what this question felt like. It harkened me back to my younger years as a Christian growing up in a Charismatic church which, at the time, was experiencing a genuine outpouring of the love of God. With that came odd expressions as people experienced God, many for the first time. Reactions tended to become, shall we say, wild. At the time I knew nothing different, but as I grew older I began to see that a genuine experience with God could be expressed in an unlimited number of ways. Some of those ways weren’t necessarily as rambunctious as my prior experience might dictate.
So, by the time this question was posed I was deep into a mindset that would tell me that I didn’t need to ask such questions. Honestly, my initial thought when asked “What name does God call you?” was that he calls me Jeremy. It seemed like a reasonable answer since my name is, in fact, Jeremy. My next thought was a little more sarcastic than the first. This thought was more along the lines of Batman or Thor. I know, I know, it seems harsh now, but at the time it seemed funny. In either case I kept both responses to myself because it was a trusted friend that posed the question in the first place. Out of respect for my friend, and knowing that he has a genuine relationship with God, I decided to roll with it.
As a force of habit, I bowed my head and closed my eyes and for the first time in my life I asked God, “What name do you call me?” I didn’t expect much, in fact I fully expected to hear the name my parents gave me at birth repeated back to me by my own mind. Something surprising happened in that moment of vulnerability though. God spoke. It wasn’t loud, nor audible, but it was most certainly clear. I heard one phrase: Bridge Builder. Not what you expected was it? Me neither!
One of my favorite games as a child was connect-the-dots. It wasn’t often that my parents or teachers could get me to stay still for very long as a child, but I would certainly sit still long enough to complete a connect-the-dots handout. You remember those right? The worksheets your teachers would hand you when they finished their lesson plan earlier than anticipated? Busy work! Little did I know that their “busy work” would be a course defining mechanism for my life. I remember often that I could see what image was going to be depicted before I finished drawing it. For years of my life I thought this ability to be simply a quirky talent I possessed with no intrinsic value whatsoever. Insert God’s name for me. Bridge Builder. As I began to ask him to explain what this name might look like in my life, the dots certainly began to connect.
Over the past year it has become abundantly clear to me, and to those closest to me that I build bridges. I build bridges in relationships, in communication, and in ways that I probably can’t see yet. This knowledge has helped me begin to walk into a God given identity which provides me with peace and freedom to simply be myself. Knowing who I am, and what my role is in the Kingdom of God, has allowed me the joy of pursuing the things that I’m most passionate about without fear of failure. It has begun to open up avenues in my business life, and within the community of the church all because God taught me how to connect-the-dots in people’s lives. Most of the time it simply looks like me helping people connect with each other, and the only thing that they previously had in common was me. I do nothing great, but I’m just simply me. The impact of being me is starting to take root, and I love it!
There is no greater calling than for someone to walk in their true identity. Identity is something that each of us strive for. It also seems to be lacking in our culture in an enormous way. As children we gain our identity from our fathers, and there are so many children being raised without a true father that it’s easy to see why identity can be a struggle. We can easily spend the majority of our lives searching for our “destiny”, while the whole time God is trying to speak to us our identity. Some might ask what the difference is between destiny and identity. Aren’t they virtually the same? Not at all.
Destiny is a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency. When we ask God to show us our destiny I fear that sometimes what we really mean is “please take control of our lives”. I know that doesn’t fit everyone who might read this, but there is definitely an undeniable voice in our culture that attests to this. We’re asking him to set out a predetermined course of events, so that we don’t have to go through the pain of failure. After all, if God’s in control, then everything that happens whether good or bad is his fault right? Wrong. I have news that some might find disturbing, while others might find the best news yet. God doesn’t want control of your life!
Identity is the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, yet we are all distinctly different from one another. With that, we can determine that to know our God given identity is to know the ways that we are distinctly created to be like God. Our identity doesn’t speak of God’s desire to control us by his will, but rather the specific manner that he wishes for us to partner with him. Rather than control us, God would prefer that we submit ourselves back to him. It is then, and only then, that our identity is fully found in him through a loving relationship.
I’ve seen the Christian community embrace the idea of instant destiny, as if it is a moment in time. The truth is that true destiny comes through a process. That process looks a lot like discovering who you are, and learning how to walk in your God given identity. I believe it’s time to embrace our identity as sons and daughters of God, who is our father and creator. We each have been gifted specific abilities, talents and personalities each of which are meant to contribute to God’s mission of showing his great love to the entire planet. Some might say that our identity is to be like God, to which I would agree. I would further ask in what specific way are you created to be like God. Again, I know how odd the question can seem at first, but I encourage you to embrace it. I’m just trying to help you connect-the-dots. So, what name does God call you?