Friday, April 15, 2016

God's Name

Last weekend I attended the To Be Told conference with Dr. Dan Allender, who is an author, therapist, professor, and speaker. I heard of him years ago when I was going through grief counseling and my therapist suggested I read one of his books. I now have four of them, including To Be Told.

After the conference ended, Dr. Allender stuck around all weekend and preached at our church services. I was happy to get an extra dose of him! The whole weekend was phenomenal and I'll be digesting it for a while to come.

One of the things Allender asked this weekend is this question:

"What do you call God?"

Allender read the story of Hagar in Genesis 16, when she was pregnant and ran away from Sarai and Abram. God's angel meets her in the desert, names her unborn son Ishmael, and tells her to return home. After this interaction, Hagar had a new name for God: El Roi. In Hebrew, it means "You are the God who sees me." God went to such lengths to chase her down in the desert and demonstrate that she is not invisible and inconsequential, which changed her view of Him and developed a new nickname of sorts she could use for Him.

Allender told a story he experienced with his young son while fishing. It was a long story, so I'll summarize by saying they had been fishing for days and hadn't caught a single fish. Allender prayed, asking God for just! one! fish! But still, no fish.

He was ready to pack up and leave when his son begged him to stay. He relented and promised his boy he could cast five more times but THAT IS ALL. Four casts came and went, and still no fish. Allender had already started the boat to leave when his son threw his last cast, and caught a fish. There was much rejoicing and later, after the excitement died down, his son said, "Dad, I know God's name. To me, He is the God of the 5th cast."

This story brings up the question, "Who or what do you call God?" because there are experiences in our lives where we learn a new name for God. Wednesday night, when I was volunteering for our church's youth, the youth pastor asked if any of us knows our name for God and if we would like to share it.

The first name that came to my mind is The God of Open Arms. That's one of the names I call Him, because He has welcomed me home countless times: when I first got to know him as a child, when I was born again as a teenager, when I turned back to Him after walking away in 1996, and now on a daily basis as I make mistakes and keep asking forgiveness.

But after that name another, more intimate name came to mind: The God Who Dances. I remembered the name I gave God when I returned to Him in 2009, when I saw my life with Him as a dance. I remember when I first wrote about that name here on my blog, so I went looking for that post. And as I looked, I found so many other names I've whispered and shouted and cried for God, as He surprised me with new dance moves and spun me around the dance floor of life:

The God Who Provides through PayPal

The God Who Unravels Scarves

The God of Flawed and Imperfect

The God of Intersecting Dreams

The God of Letting Go and Giving it Away

The God of the Internal Eternal

The God Who Turns Liabilities into Assets

The God of U-Turns

The God of Krazy Glue

The God of Parenting Redemption

The God Who Meets Me

The God Who Wants Me

The God of Enough

Who is God, to you? What do you call Him? Maybe you've spent your life not knowing what to call Him, or not even wanting to.

I get it. There was a 5 year period of my life where I called Him things like The God of Harsh Hurt, The God of No Healing, and The God Who Doesn't Care. Thankfully, the distorted view I had of Him didn't change who He was, and He waited patiently for me to get back on the dance floor and, then, to stop dancing alone.

He's gracious enough to love me no matter what I call Him, because His name for me has never changed.

He calls me His.

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