Today I Saw God
When our daughters were growing up, my husband often traveled out of town for work. Over the years, the girls and their daddy developed a ritual for saying their farewells, which they still observe today as the girls leave for college each semester or when it is time to say goodbye after a visit.
Each time they part, Steve will kiss the palm of each of his daughters' hands, and the girls will then hold their palm to their face for a moment while they say out loud:
"Daddy loves me."
Then it is their turn to remind their daddy of their love for him. They kiss their daddy's much bigger palm, and he holds his palm to his face and repeats the reassuring promise.
"Alex loves me."
"Brookie loves me."
After wrapping them tightly in his arms for a final hug, Steve looks them in the eye and reminds them of his expectations for them. Each time, he says these words:
"Be good, be strong, be brave!"
You can imagine how adorable this ritual was when they were tiny and he had to pick them up for the goodbye hug. For me, it may be even more meaningful to watch now that they are 21 and 23-years-old. As independent young women, they still choose to go out into the world under the covering of their daddy's blessing and love. He names them beloved and reminds them who they are and to whom they belong. They are good. They are strong. They are brave. His blessing and exhortation reminds them that he expects them to remember who they are and behave accordingly.
As we were discussing this ritual the other night, Steve and I talked about the messages we received from our fathers, who are both now in heaven. We discovered we both still hear their voices in our heads sometimes. While my relationship with my father was complicated by his struggle with alcoholism, he instilled in me a strong belief in my ability to tackle any challenge and achieve my goals. From the time I was born, he delighted in me and told me I was smart and strong. According to him, there was nothing in this world I couldn't be or do. Although he couldn't defeat the demons that kept him trapped in self-destruction, I never doubted his belief in me. He and my mom named me well, perhaps the greatest gift we parents have to offer our children.
Throughout scripture, we are offered a similar blessing and promise from our Abba Father who names us beloved. Repeatedly, in both the Old and New Testaments, God reminds us who we are and to whom we belong. In a variety of phrasing and in many different contexts, God tells his people to take heart:
"Be brave. Be strong. Do not fear, for I will be with you."
God doesn't promise life won't be hard. He doesn't promise we won't have trouble and heartache. He does, however, promise over and over and over again that he will never leave us. He will go before us, and he will come behind us. We can be brave because we know our mighty God has our back in every situation.
Because of God's passion for us, we are named beloved. We are good. We are strong. We are brave.
When we forget, we must remind one another until we remember who we are. Let's choose to show up for each other and name each other well.
Hey friend, in case someone hasn't told you in a while, let me remind you of your name today. You are good. You are strong. You are brave. And best of all, you are God's beloved.
Originally published on www.kellyiveyjohnson.com.
One of my favorite Bible characters is Queen Esther. The story of Esther is full of intrigue, hidden identities, treachery, betrayal, a kindly uncle, spineless royalty, evil sycophants and the courage of one woman who risked her life to save her people.
The book of Esther also has the unusual distinction of being the only book in the Bible that never specifically mentions God. Consider that little tidbit of Bible trivia a bonus.
Through a series of circumstances not under her control, a young Jewish girl named Esther becomes the queen of Persia. Esther has no royal aspirations, yet through a twist of fateand perhaps divine interventionshe finds herself married to the powerful King Xerxes, who does not realize she is Jewish.
I'm not going to tell you the whole story because I want you to read it, but the king's evil advisor Haman manipulates the king into ordering the death of all the Jews. The only possible solution, according to Esther's wise uncle Mordecai, is for Esther to seek an audience with the king, confess that she is a Jew and plead for the lives of her people and herselfan act that almost certainly will anger the king and may lead to Esther's death.
Mordecai raised Esther. He knows Esther. He watched Esther grow up and sees who she is becoming and her heretofore-unrealized potential for bravery. In pleading with her, he suggests that maybe her life up to this point has been leading to this pivotal moment. Mordecai says to Esther:
"Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this."
How is that for pressure?
How about us?For what purpose have we been brought to this particular place, time and set of circumstances?
If you are like me, your life now is different from what you envisioned when you were younger. I could never have predicted the friends, circumstances, opportunities, challenges, triumphs and heartaches that are now so much a part of the person I am today.
But God knew.
My circumstances, experience, gifts, growth and relationships have led me to this unique circle of influence, this place where I can make a difference and this place where I can contribute to God's Kingdom. I am not here by accident.
The same is true for you.
What might happen if we, like Esther, were brave enough to take a risk? What might happen if you were brave enough to:
- Speak up and have that difficult conversation
- Volunteer and help with that project
- Sign up for that class
- Take off the mask and let people see the real you
- Say no to that thing that no longer inspires you
- Say yes to the secret passion you are yearning to try
- Call that person you wish you knew better
- Love that person who is hard to love
- Say, "I'm sorry"
- Offer forgiveness
- Take the lead
- Give sacrificially
- Follow your dream
What would be the worse thing that could happen if I said yes? Would that possibility be worse than living with the regret of always wondering "what if"?
Below is what Esther said in response to her uncle's invitation:
"Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don't eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish."
Esther evaluated the potential consequences, prayed about it and then jumped. Trembling, lump in her throat, face flushed, she walked in and faced the king who held her life in his hands. For her, the reality was that she might be brave and die. She counted the cost and decided the risk was worth it.
If I am honest, the risk I face is more often tied up with my fragile ego. I'm afraid to look stupid. I'm afraid I will fail. Or I'm afraid I will be embarrassed, rejected or ridiculed. I am afraid of what people will think. I'm afraid I will fall flat on my face and look like a fool.
What is your biggest fear?
What if everything in our life has led us to and prepared us for this pivotal moment? This brave choice?
What would happen if we prayed for three days and then accepted the invitation God whispered in our spirit?
I dare you.
P.S. Read the rest of Esther to find out what happened when Esther chose her brave yes. I love happy endings!
Originally published on www.kellyjohnsongracenotes.com.