When I was little, I knew Him as “God”.
As I got older, I would say “Lord”, “God”, “Father”.
As my Christian-ese vocabulary grew, I would sometimes throw in “Abba”, “Yahweh”, “Elohim” or “Jehovah” if I wanted to seem impressive or just use a new “name” to spice things up a little bit.
This Supreme Being that I had been taught about my whole life, and personally pursued for most of my cognitive years, didn’t carry a name to me, but rather, a list of titles.
There are other titles that God carries: Jehova-Rapha “The Lord that heals”, Jehova-Nissi “The Lord my banner”, Jehova-Shalom “The Lord of peace”.
Any basic Google Search will lead you to a page full of hats that we’ve assigned to God: Shepherd, Father, Leader, Helper, Teacher, King, Judge, Protector, Creator, etc. etc. etc. Comb through the Bible and you will find it saturated with stories of Him showing His complexities and glimpses of His character to us.
Do you know God?
Do you know Him well enough to call Him by His name?
As we’ve been talking about for the last several weeks, names have a huge influence on identity. Our names are one of the first things that we recognize about ourselves. In fact, we recognize our names before we even recognize our faces in the mirror (average age of a baby knowing their name, five months. Average age recognizing themselves in a mirror, eighteen months.)
If you read this blog regularly then I’m guessing you’re the kind of Jesus-follower that talks about God a lot.
If not, then you at least recognize that I talk about God a lot.
God is amazing because He reveals Himself in very specific and tailored ways – whether you read about someone else’s encounter with Him, or you feel the breath of God move through your spirit.
It would be cool if I could give you a formatted flow-chart with the characteristics of God on it; work through from step 1 to step 6, and soon you’ll have everything you need to know about the character and identity of God down-pat.
Buuuuut God doesn’t work like that, which is good because I’m not that good at making flow charts anyway.
As with all of my posts, the best that I can do is be personal, and honest with you all. The obvious and honest truth is that I cannot tell you exactly Who God is because I frankly do not know yet. I know some things, but I don’t know all of them – which works in your favor, dear reader, because now you get to go on the adventure of discovering Him for yourself.
With all of that said, here is what I know about the identity of God through how He has moved in my own life. Many of you can probably read my stories and start to see moments and experiences in your own life where God has moved in your heart and your own story.
1.) God is Love. 1John 4:8 says that, “Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.” This truth is echoed just eight verses later in 1John4:16, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” It’s something that I was spoon-fed from the time I was a little girl. It became a backdrop in my mind, never given much acknowledgment, but never completely dismissed. God recently has been reminding me – He is a love that I do not deserve. I’ve been struggling with the loss of one of my close friends (not a death, more of a “now you’re just somebody that I used to know” situation) – feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment, frustration took over every memory I had with this person. “Love her anyway.” God’s voice whispered over my heart. “I don’t want to!” I shouted back. “Too bad. She’s mine. She is my beloved. I created her in my image. I died for her. If you love Me, then you will love her.”
I’m a gifted argue-er, but I never win when I argue with God.
2.) God is Forgiveness. To me, feeling guilty and feeling convicted are two different things. A feeling of guilt is a feeling of regret. A feeling of conviction is a desire to change. God is constantly working on my heart, convicting me of things and speaking to me. However, not long ago I went through a season of deep conviction over sins that I had been sweeping under the rug – trying to hide them from God. It wasn’t because I thought God wouldn’t love me anymore because of them. It’s because I knew that if I dragged them out into the Light, I wouldn’t be able to carry them anymore. I would be like a person carrying rotting garbage and trying to casually display it in a bakery case filled with warm goodies; really, really stupid. We are always welcome in the throne room with God, to worship, and speak with Him personally. Our sins, on the other hand, are not welcome in the throne room. Repentance happens at the door. I found myself curled up in a ball in my bed, crying as I poured my heart out to God, not out of fear that He wouldn’t forgive me – out of relief from being lifted of my burdens. Like a veil being torn, I found the divide between me and God closing, and my heart found peace as I gave Him my repentance and received His forgiveness. When I’m not handing my sins to God, my hands get full quickly. My burdens get heavy and I find excuses to stay out of the Throne Room. More than anything, when I’m not handing my sins to God, I’m missing out on a large component of His character – that He is Forgiveness. (Ephesians 1:7)
3.) God is Righteous. One of the things we read about in the Bible, when considering God’s character and Who He is, is that He is described as the Righteous Judge. (Isaiah 33:2 is just one example) God is the most righteous and high judge because of three very important things about Him: first, He knows and sees everything. In Proverbs, we are told that like a merchant weighs a product, God weighs our hearts. Not because He’s looking for the best “deal”, it’s because He is the most qualified to give a measure to how our hearts are composed. He sees the depths of our souls – our future, our past, our regrets and our victories. For this reason, He is able to stand as a righteous Judge, simply due to his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. Second, He loves us. This love which we can compare to nothing, is the banner over our hearts, under which His grace resides. Without His love, I am nowhere. I exist because of His love. I breathe because He commands my lungs to keep moving. I stand because He gives me strength. His love qualifies Him as a righteous Judge. Third, God is good – all the time. I remember an incredibly distinct time when I did not want God to stand in any position of authority, much less as a Righteous Judge. When my sister passed away in 2016, to me, God had allowed the most unjust thing possible to occur. Torn from my arms, my sister’s spirit left this earth – leaving my heart in shreds and wondering how my feet would ever dance again. Nothing happens without God seeing, nothing happens without God knowing, so how could He look upon my sister’s death and declare it to be “good”? How dare He, who holds all things together, allow my sister’s life to slip through the hands holding her here?
One answer became clear to me: Because He is God.
4.) God is Mighty. I forget God’s might far too often. I only have to walk outside my front door to see how incredibly powerful He is. The stars hang in the sky without us ever questioning who put them there. I open a science book and read about the complexity of an atom and realize, God is an artist beyond human comprehension. I learn that our brains are wired to find comfort and relaxation when we look at green – I take a peek out my window and see the earth itself is alive with every shade of green imaginable. I get complacent about His might – I forget that He is who holds all things together. I forget that it is He who first spoke light into existence, and gave the order to the sun and stars and how they march across the sky to a perfectly patterned season. I forget that it was He who composed both the sound of Niagara Falls, and the pattern to a baby’s clumsy footsteps when they first learn to walk. We talk about God’s might when He performs what we consider a miracle – a loved one coming home from war, an illness being cured, all the while forgetting that it’s a miracle our lungs can process the air around us every moment.
5.) God is Truth. Lies swirl around me on a daily basis. Lies about who I am, who God is, where my identity comes from and who I am becoming. Lies telling me that I’m a failure. Lies telling me that I’ll never be good enough so I may as well give up now. Lies telling me about my worth. Lies telling me about my strength. Lies telling me about my future. Lies telling me about my control. Lies, lies, lies. But when I open the Bible, God tells me exactly who I am, because of Who He is. He tells me that my future is in His hands. He tells me that I don’t need to worry about if I’m “strong enough” because every ounce of strength that I have comes from Him anyway. He tells me that He holds each of my tears in His hands, so not a moment of my pain is wasted. In a world full of lies, sometimes He is the only Truth that my heart can cling to.