My journey into wholeness has not always been pretty. When I was recently told it was an elegant journey, I knew that was a prophetic utterance. I understood what the person meant.
Elegance means that you gave it your best, you fought the good fight and you rejoiced in the victories along the way. You never just did “good enough” or “pretty good.” God had placed in me the potential to be the best me I could, and that is the me I wanted to see occupy my world. Never easy, of course, but nothing worth having is easy.
I suffer from disappointment when coming across people who are willing to settle for less. Granting certain natural limitations, there is a best in each of us.
Take our health for instance. At 68, I am tempted to relax about my health, giving into my age as a proof that “stuff just happens when you get older.” Then I realize that we are created, our bodies were made, to live 120 years. That means 68 is middle aged! Somehow we have made the Social Security Adminstration the dictator of what retirement age is, and so have most Corporations who want to put out to pasture anyone over 60.
So I seek the fountain of youth whenever possible. Is it vanity? To say I want to look good into my old age would not be a lie. I want to look in the mirror each day and like what I see. So I get my hair blonded as often as necessary because that is who I am. I like to look good, I like to wear clothes that are flattering and grow my nails so I can have shiney color on the ends of my fingers.
A couple years ago I faced fear of death right in the eye. Oh, I wasn’t literally on my death bed, but the enemy of our souls sure had me believing I was. A spirit of death had overcome me and suddenly I felt old. Doctors were telling me to take all these meds to keep me “healthy.” They all just made me sick. I was crippled from Plantar Fascitis, and found myself wearing “plain” shoes for the sake of the insoles I had to wear. I stopped caring about what I ate and my blood pressure showed it. Was it time to give in to the truth that I was just “old” and this was my inevitable life? Heck, No!
Most of it was the result of some bad thinking I had succumbed to about my age and about family issues that had surfaced. Stress was the enemy of it all. As I pursued the underlying stressors, I found my life again. Anxiety left. Blood pressure returned to normal. I found some exercises to relieve the plantar fascitis and got rid of the hundreds of dollars of shoe inserts that had done nothing. The issue was not in my feet.
As an encourager, I often want to inspire people I know to go after the best and not settle. I remind them that just a few changes in diet, or thinking, or exercise, could get them feeling their best. How many times I hear, “Oh, it’s ok, I have learned to live with it. It’s my cross to bear. God will take care of me.”
It’s truly heartbreaking. I get it. There is a place we are to come where we accept the life we have and trust that it is all in God’s hands. But God had a lot to say about that mindset and sometimes we just need to see the side of God that says, “Stand up, shake the dust off yourself, Jerusalem! Remove the bonds from your neck, Daughter Zion!” Isaiah 52:2 And how about Ezra 10:4: “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
I want to do what makes God smile over me, and shine His light, encouraging me and speaking life into me. I want to hear, “Well done!”
Now please don’t jump to that dreaded conclusion that I am preaching a performance gospel. Not even close. I am preaching a “Don’t Give Up!” gospel. We are not called to be passive in our life. If you have any doubt, remember these words spoken by Peter, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”. When Jesus breathed into his disciples after His resurrection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” He was giving them, and later, us, divine power. That’s the same power that created the universe! Failure to use this power is possibly the greatest sin we face as Christians.
Does that sound harsh? What is sin, if not missing the mark? When Christmas came around and you found that new bike under the tree, did you pass it by and choose the old one in the garage with training wheels because it was easier? I doubt it. That bike was given to you because you were capable of riding it. Eventually, you found that to be true.
I have friends who live in pain and dysfunction even knowing the solution is at their fingertips. Sometimes it is because they want the magic healing. More often it is because they really don’t know that God wants to give them more, and that He values them so much. He wants them to have the mountain bike instead of the training wheels. Both choices take work. Staying sick and giving up is a draining life. Getting on that bike and making it take you to new adventures requires some discipline and pain. The difference is, one takes life, and one gives life.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Do you know the words right before that declaration? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
Giving up, choosing good instead of better, or better instead of best, is a choice. I choose the abundant life. Instead of medicine, anxiety and death, I choose life, peace and prosperity. How about you?
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”
Do you remember the process of naming your child? If you are a parent, maybe you were one of those pouring over websites and books that gave ideas, definitions and meanings to thousands of names. You wanted to find the one that was just right. The perfect name for this treasure that was coming into your life. You wanted it to have meaning, to give that child a legacy. I certainly did.
Or maybe you wanted to give them a name to live up to. Like Faith, Hope or Star. Sometimes we just picked up on the current Hollywood trendy name. Or a family name. You may be of the era that remembers the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”. Now that’s a name to live up to!
God is that intentional as well. As far back as Genesis, God carefully named His creation and made Adam a part of the process. “Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name”. Gen 2:19 MEV
There is a story behind every name given throughout the Bible. Abram, Father of Height, became Abraham, Father of a Multitude. It was a prophetic pronouncement. Saul the persecutor of Christians became Paul, the Hero of Christians. Cephas a stone became Peter the Rock. And Jesus Son of Man became Jesus the Christ.
I was not born Angela Joy. My original birth name was given to me by my Father. He had lost his sister to a childhood disease, and named me for her. I can’t explain why, but the name never felt like home to me. My daughter complains about her name as well. Sometimes we miss the mark.
I often dreamed of what I would name myself if I could change my name. There were many on my list. Madison was cruising at the top. But the night the Lord told me my name in Heaven cinched it.
“Angela” He said. “That is what I named you when I first conceived of you. My messenger of love.”
When He whispered that to me in the wee hours of a January morning, my spirit leapt, my heart fell in love, with Angela. Joy was an easy extension, for that was truly how I felt. Full of Joy.
So I stepped into this identity, wearing it like a glove for a few weeks. Finally, I knew I wanted to change my public name as well. With both parents gone, I had no reason to hesitate.
A name really makes a difference. I feel the spirit of Angela every time I introduce myself. And now my book, He Knows My Name, will share that story and the rest of the story of how God, who knew my name before I was born, continues to show me who I am.
Our history does not define us. God does. He calls us up each day to a higher place of destiny and purpose. Listen. He is calling your name.
Watch for the completion of my new book on identity this summer!