Her mother wanted her name to be Jenny because she thought it was beautiful—and of course her middle name is Joy, with the way she carries it into the world– but she wrote on the certificate, “Jennifer” just in case, for when she was grown. But Jenny and I are in our thirties now and she’s tried out the grown-up name, but it couldn’t stick for me because I know her and I know her name, and I really can’t separate them: Jenny is beautiful and joyous to me.
Jenny once told me about a book she’d come across where we could learn the myriad names of the only God. We could learn the names and their meanings so that we could speak straight to the heart of the The Lord That Heals or The Lord My Shepherd or The Lord of the Five-Millionth Chance Who Never Gives Up On You Even Though You Are Beyond Ridiculous as our circumstances might require. I loved this idea and I love Jenny, and I never followed through with it because that’s so often the way with me, The Girl of Good Intentions, but I bet you Jenny did, The Woman Who Seeks God.
So I know only a few Biblical names of the one I refer to as God because that’s the English word and it’s accurate at its most basic level if totally, thoroughly impersonal. This frustrates me because I really want to know God even better than I know the well-named Jenny Joy, and how well can you know someone if you don’t even know their name? And even if I’d read the dang book, I’d still only know translations of God’s name. (I think God spoke those Hebraic words so that the people would understand, but you can’t tell me their language or mine or 998 others are God’s own, and that is what I want. Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, but if only I could know and speak God’s name in that one true native tongue.) Is it so much to ask? I want the actual voice of God speaking the actual words of God telling me the actual name of God. I don’t just want accurate; I want personal.
And I will get a little personal here: For all the confessions I’m willing to write out into the world because I know you’ll mostly understand or at least try to forgive, there’s one confession– a wild and beautiful one, mysterious and fearsome– that I don’t often utter because I know if you’re not careful, you’ll look at me sideways-upside-down, and even if you are, you’ll hold tight your thoughts about my crazy. And isn’t that the worst, to not be understood?
But I’ll tell you now because I have no story without this truth: Sometimes I hear the voice of God.
It’s not audible, but I hear it in the same space where I silently sound my prayers, and it comes quickly and clearly, stronger and better than any of my own thoughts. It comes like a dagger– pierces and retreats– and I wish it would stay, but I know I couldn’t bear it. And I don’t hear it often, but it always changes me when I do.
Sometimes The Lord is Peace sounds like my mother, loving tenderness weaving through every word, and I am comforted soul-deep; sometimes The Lord Who Makes Holy sounds like my sarcastic professor, cutting clarity punctuating every sentence, and my pride and I are put back in our place. Always God sounds like Jesus, even if they’re words he never spoke; always God sounds like Scripture, even if they’re sentences I never read.
And I know The Lord is There is real because you cannot deny a person who has spoken straight to you. I know God is real, but do I really know God? I know the voice; I know the words; I know the feeling. But do I know the person when I do not know the name?
So I asked. In tears and in frustration and in my own sideways-upside-down crazy ridiculousness, I asked God, begged, “What is your name? I just want to know your name. Will you tell me your name?”
And I did not hear God’s native tongue, perhaps too glorious for earthly ears, but The Lord Will Provide spoke words I could understand (because isn’t that the worst, not to be understood?)—three times, strong-piercing-clear:
Will you tell me your name? And maybe a little of who you are? It’s a gift to write for you here; I’d like to know you more.