"Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel..."
The story of Jacob in Genesis 32 has always been one that I identified with during much of my spiritual journey. My normal MO was to figure out life on my own until I ran out of ideas or resources and then turn to God if I have to. Sometimes God would interfere with my plans and suggest another one. My first response was to resist and wrestle. Like Jacob, I ended up losing - God is definitely GOD.
However, over the years, I have noticed a slow but definite change taking place in my normal pattern. I find myself going to God sooner and resisting less. Instead of wrestling, embracing. Rather than pushing against Him, resting into Him.
Last weekend while on a retreat with a group of women, I came to the end of my wrestling career. I decided that from now on I want my pursuit of God to be characterized by a pursuit of rest, stillness and contentment in Christ. Admittedly I expect that there will still be times of wrestling in my future, but no longer will I describe my spiritual life predominantly in terms of wrestling as I have for most of my life. In fact, last week I came to embrace my new name.
What new name you ask? While I was in China, my translator had given me a new name. This is a common practice there, at least in the context I was in as a foreign Christian speaker and teacher. I could not choose my Chinese name; someone else had to give it to me after observing me and getting to know me.
After hearing most of my talks which varied in topics, FangFang chose one: An Ran (安然). It means one who is at rest, safely, peacefully. I loved the name she chose, though I struggled to pronounce it accurately. But I didn't understand the significance of my new name until last weekend. Before I could embrace that name, I had to leave behind my old one: one who fights God.
Then this morning at church, Pastor Rick preached on Jacob's renaming and I realized that I needed to leave behind another old name - Harriet.
Don't worry. I'm still expecting to be called "Harriet." But I'll confess that I have always disliked my name. During my childhood I hated it when some jerk called me "Harry It" (from the TV series, The Munsters). Lamenting my given name, I asked my father why he chose such an old fashioned one. He said it was the closest English name he could think of to my mother's, Haruko. (He also used the same logic for my middle name, Nori, which was the closest Japanese equivalent to my grandmother's name, Nora. Unfortunately, Nori means either glue or seaweed. Lovely.)
Trying to reconcile with my name got even more difficult after I became a Christian. Constantly confronted with descriptions of the ideal Christian woman and wife (quiet and submissive), I felt like a failure in trying to live up to those qualities since I was raised to be independent and self sufficient on top of having the personality of a fighter. I felt more hopeless when I found out what "Harriet" meant: ruler of the home. I was doomed!
Until this morning.
My spiritual journey has brought me to this place of renaming. Living with Jon for the past 32 years has taught me to co-rule our home in mutual love, respect and submission. But living with Christ for even longer has taught me I am no longer ruler of my heart. Christ is. My new name is An Ran.
"Your name will no longer be Ruling, but Resting..."