Saturday, January 22, 2011

Song #2: Living My Name

    "A good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold." Proverbs 22:1 

     Grandpa Ki, my mother's dad, used to tell his children not to act in a way that would disgrace the family name. Their surname was a distinctive, German name, and everyone in the community knew whose kids they were when my uncles acted up. Word would get back to my grandparents, and they would then confront their boys with the report of their misconduct. What followed was more than a gentle discussion out behind the smokehouse.
     Similarly, my mother had a knack for knowing my wrongdoings. She used to tell me she had eyes in the back of her head or that a little birdy  had told her about my behavior. The severity of my offense was measured in the number of licks I received from her belt--quick and just punishment.
      Funny thing is my name was different from  my mom's because my parents were divorced, and Mom had remarried. She had a "good name", but I retained the name of my father who had a bad reputation for his misdeeds when drinking. When I blew it, people just stamped "ditto" on me --same name, same reputation. 
     Mom gave me "Judy" after Judy Canova, a singer, actress, and comedian from radio days.  My dad added "Carolyn", but, because he's been gone nearly 35 years, I can't ask him why he chose it.  I am glad, however, to be named "Judy Carolyn" because of  its meaning : "praise, song of joy". 
     I can't say that I've always lived up to the meaning of my name. In fact, in seasons of my life I felt more like its antithesis: "insult, silence, sorrow".  My misbehavior in those times not only disgraced my family name but  insulted  the name of Christ. I had taken on the name "Christian" when I accepted Him as my Savior. 
      Also, from a young age I carried a hidden sorrow in my soul that my childish mind didn't understand. Later on I realized it stemmed from  my parents' divorce and subsequent conflicts over child custody,  dad's alcoholism and abusive behavior,  and my molestation as a child. It was the loneliness of an only child combined with a hunger for love from a  father incapable of giving it. As an adult I added injury to insult through my own choices in trying to satisfy that longing. Though I was praised for my achievements and sang from as early as I can remember, my life was not a "praise song of joy".
     When my own marriage failed, I called myself  "failure", and it seemed the ditto label was branded on my forehead. Then, my son died by his own hand, and I entered a sorrow so deep I could no longer sing. My name had become a cruel joke, a description of something I would never be, someone I had no power to become. I even wrote in a journal and whispered in the recesses of my heart, "I will never be happy again."
     If my future depended on me, that's where I would be still--stuck with failure, insult, sorrow, defeat, and silence. But God had a different plan, and He delights in proving us wrong. He was just waiting for me to quit struggling on my own and give Him access to the dark rooms and secret places of my heart--waiting, not to punish me, but to bless me--to satisfy that father hunger that had gnawed at me all my life. Like Jacob I had wrestled with God in the night and demanded a blessing, but I had to let go and let Him do His work (without my help) to get it. 
     God asked Jacob to tell Him his name--"liar, deceiver, supplanter". Once Jacob admitted his name and thus his identity, God blessed him and gave him a new name--"Israel", which means "he persists with God." I also told God my names--all of them--those I inherited, the ones I earned, those I was called, and the ones I gave myself; and God gave me back the ones my parents intended for me--"praise song of joy". 
     The praise is all for Him, as He is the essence of my song and the source of my joy. He gave me a new husband and an unexpected blessing of a fourth child to add to my family. He restored the joy of my salvation (Psalm 51:12) and released the burden of past hurts and failures. He gave me freedom--to worship Him in complete abandon with arms lifted high and face toward Heaven , to testify of the healing and power He has brought to me and to my family--freedom to forgive, to love, to "persist with God", and to live out loud.
     I thank Him and give Him this song in the night.

    "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Galations 4:28 


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