who am I?

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There is a phrase, "There are none so blind as those who will not see." Well, there are none so enslaved as those who think they deserve slavery.  I thought I was only fit to be a slave, so I saw the Gospel message as a list of assignments.  Jesus said, "if you love me you will keep my commands."  I didn't realize that Jesus was telling us to focus on getting to know Him and learning to love Him.  I thought He was focusing on behavior.  I searched Scripture to discern what behaviors God liked and pushed myself to do them: thankfulness, worship, service, evangelism, prayer, Bible reading, meditation, discipline, accountability, compassion, confession, giving, tithing, .... My duties expanded, and the weight of my shackles had me plodding more and more slowly.

I was troubled because I could see that my good actions were not coming from my heart. They were coming from obligation, not love.  Phillis Wheatley, the poet who lived much of her life as a slave, wrote, "In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance."  I could see this longing in my heart, but I tried to tell myself I was already free. My heart knew the truth. I was making myself a slave.

Three years ago, my husband and I were reading The Jesus Storybook Bible with the children.  Wonderful book! In the chapter called "The Singer," Sally Lloyd Jones said that Jesus had come to teach us a song we were made to sing:  "God made us.  He loves us.  He is very pleased with us."  Shortly after we read it, I was talking with one of my daughters.  At five years old, her eyes were already haunted with the failure I felt, and it bothered me.  I remembered the song, and I told my daughter, "God is pleased with you."  She answered in a voice of disbelief, "How can that be true?"  Her voice and words were a knife in my heart, but I struggled to answer her, because I didn't believe that God was pleased with me.

(As a side note, at that time, God gave us another name for that daughter – Anastasia, which means resurrection.  He also gave me a new verse to sing her about His love for her.  It has been wonderful to watch her eyes lose their haunted look as God has been healing me.  As I am healed, I am able to be part of God's healing of my children.)

Since them, God has been pouring the thought of His pleasure into my heart.  I don't know how many times He has breathed those words into my heart.  I do remember clearly the last time I heard them vividly.  It was a few months ago.  I was walking with a friend whom I dearly love and rarely see.  We were taking our children to the park.  It was a beautiful spring day.  Everything was glorious except one thing, my heart would not rejoice.

I tried to make my heart rejoice.  I tried to praise God.  I knew when you are discouraged, you are supposed to find something good and praise God for it, yet here I was surrounded by wonder and glory, and my heart would not let me praise.  The harder I tried to praise God for the wonder I could clearly see around me, the more my heart revolted.  I despaired.  My heart just wouldn't cooperate.  If I couldn't make myself praise God about things which were wonderful, there was no hope.  What would I do in hard times?  I was still failing God.

It was at that moment that I heard clearly, "I am pleased with you."  There was a smile in that voice.  I could hear God's pleasure in His tone, and my pressured heart sank into God's embrace.  It wasn't rebellious anymore.  It was dancing!  I could praise God when it came from my heart, and that was enough!  I didn't have to manufacture praise!  Since then, though my heart still rebels at times, I have found praise flowing from my heart more and more.

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Every great love story has an obstacle which must be overcome.  In my relationship with God, the obstacle has been my sense of obligation and my sense of who I was.  I was the prodigal son, who came home to proclaim myself no longer fit to be a son, but only fit to be a slave.  I accepted the party of welcome, then set about trying to make up for my betrayal of my Father by my servitude.  I became a slave, endeavoring to please my Father.

I was convinced I ought to love God, and yet I thought I was by nature incapable of doing what I ought.  I knew that love acts in certain ways, so I thought I must make myself act in those ways.  I did not understand that love for God would grow naturally.  I did not understand that I was fertile soil in which God had planted His seed of love.  Everything the seed needed to grow was in place.  The seed just required time.

Instead, I thought I was only fit to be a slave.  I held as my mantra the verse, "There is none good, no not one."  When God tried to assure me of His love and to claim me as His Daughter, I basically waved that verse at Him and refused to believe Him.

One day, God told me to go look up that verse.  I went to the computer, opened BibleWorks, and hunted for the verse.  It wasn't in any single translation.  Instead, I found "There is none that doeth good, no not one."  (I am still trying to figure out how I, and my sisters, memorized the verse incorrectly.  Part of me wonders whether God just recently fixed a translation error in all translations, both electronic and printed, by His miraculous power.)

Sometimes, I hear a thought in distinct words, and I know it is God speaking.  Other times, when I am afraid to listen to God because what He is saying is too scarily freeing, too different from everything I have believed, God starts nagging at my thoughts with something that won't go away.  This was one of the times when I was afraid to believe God.  It seemed to good to be true.

The thought that nagged at me is this.  A child gets her father's name as her family name.  The Father's name is my name.  My name is Daughter I Am.  My name is not I Do.  At creation, God declared me very good, and that is who I Am.  Though I may do things that are not good, my name is not I Do, so my essence is unchanged.  I am who I am because I am my Father's Daughter, and He made me very good.

When the rich young ruler came and knelt before Jesus, he called Jesus "good teacher."  Jesus asked him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone."  This passage always bothered me.  Isn't Jesus good?  Didn't the ruler get it right here?  Why is Jesus challenging him?  Was Jesus challenging him to recognize Jesus as God?  Lately, I've begun to wonder.  What if Jesus was also challenging him to consider the tightly held belief that only God is good and man is bad?  What if Jesus was challenging him to consider Genesis 1:31, in which God saw all that He had made and declared it very good?

I think God is asking me whether my family name is I Am or I Do.  He is asking me to choose.  I can choose to keep the name given me by the Father of Lies, or I can accept the name bequeathed to me by my true Father.  It seems too scarily beautiful to believe, but my heart longs to believe.