At the beginning of the year, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up thinking that I needed a scripture verse for the year. I read John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.
I felt strongly that God was giving me the word “peace” for the year. Of course, because I’m me, after briefly thinking that that sounded nice, I began to worry that if I’m going to be learning about peace this year, I can probably expect to experience some significant adversity. I hated to be pessimistic, but it seemed likely.
Not long ago, some friends introduced me to the Enneagram, which describes 9 interconnected personality types. I listened to a series of lectures about each of the 9 personality types. As I listened to the very last one, from the moment the teacher started speaking, I heard her describing me. She said that their greatest sin is fear and is often manifested as anxiety. She said that they always see the worst thing that can happen in any situation, and that even when things are going well, they worry about what could go wrong.
She said many things, but what I heard over everything else was that fear and anxiety are such a prominent backdrop, people with this personality type are often not even aware of it and don’t realize that not everyone else experiences the world this way. I have always known that I’m an anxious person and have worked hard the past few years (or perhaps I should say God has worked in me) to cope better with my anxiety. Hearing that it is at the core of who I am was like looking into a mirror and being forced to face what I knew was there but didn’t want to see. I could not understand how this could be the core of my identity because I knew that that was not what God wanted for me, but I also knew it was true. I was up all night, upset, wrestling with this truth. I knew that God had given me the word “peace” for the year, but I was confronted with the truth that I was completely wrapped up in fear and anxiety.
Shortly thereafter, I had the privilege of attending Beth Moore’s Lit Conference for women in their 20’s and 30’s who believe they have been called by God to use a gift of teaching, speaking, and/or writing. It was an inspiring, challenging, exhausting 12 hour day, and I learned so much, but the most significant thing that happened was during the worship time at the end of the conference.
I was exhausted from a very full, emotional, day and was wondering where I should let my thoughts land at the close of it. As my mind was searching over all the things I had learned that day, I felt like God was telling me to set it all aside and just be with Him. Christine Caine got up as Christy Nockels continued leading worship and said that we (the women attending the conference) all knew that God was asking something of us, but that He wanted to ask us, “What can I do for you?”
I was shocked. I had been in such a mode of figuring out what He was asking of me, I could not believe He would ask what He could do for me. I thought about the “peace” scripture and prayed for deliverance from fear and anxiety. I considered the part that says, “I do not give to you as the world gives,” and I thought about how the world gives: selfishly, expecting something in return, and temporarily, giving things that don’t last. I thanked God that He does not give with selfish motives and doesn’t seek to manipulate, and then I prayed that He would give me lasting, deep-down peace that would last for the rest of my life. I continued praying and felt like God was showing me that my peace would not come from knowing that everything is going to be ok but that it would come from knowing that He is with me. As the worship time and conference drew to a close, my friend and I left together, completely exhausted.
The next morning, as I began the drive home from Houston, I thought about how I should spend the luxurious four hours of alone time on the road. I took notice of a beautiful blue sky with picturesque white clouds, such a lovely sunny day for driving, and I relished the fact that I had all of this time alone to do whatever I wanted, with no one asking anything of me. I found myself thinking about how unusually good I felt. And then it hit me. “Did He do it? Did He answer my prayer and deliver me from anxiety?” Enjoying a lovely drive home and “feeling good” may seem unremarkable, but I felt an underlying contentment and calm that was different from the needlessly anxious hurry I had been in on the way there.
I have continued mulling this over in the weeks since my return from Houston and wondered what it meant. When I first got home, I felt like the background of anxiety was gone, that I no longer had a nervous energy buzzing around in the background of my mind, which was something I had not even been aware was there before.
I’ve been thinking about when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32:22-32. As Jacob is wrestling with the angel of God, the angel asks Jacob for his name. When Jacob responds, it’s as though he is finally owning up to the sin of deception that is at the core of his identity because “Jacob” means “supplanter*.” He was a “heel grabber” from the moment he was born when he grabbed the heel of his older twin brother Esau, and he continued to demonstrate deceptive, conniving practices throughout his life up to this point of encounter with God. Thus, in giving his name, he confessed the sin of who he was at his core, and then God blessed him and renamed him “Israel,” which means “God strives,” “God rules,” “God heals,” or “he strives against God” (according to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary). After the encounter with God, he owned up to his mistakes and was reconciled to his brother.
I believe that on February 11, God gave me a new name. Before I could fully appreciate the healing and deliverance from anxiety, I had to be presented with the honest reality of who I was and how wrapped up in fear I had become. I was so upset to see and confess this about myself, but He already had a plan. As always, He used the truth lovingly and mercifully to begin the healing that He knew I needed. He had given me the scripture about peace, and then He took me to Houston and put me in a room with over 700 other women, under the leadership of an amazing panel including Beth Moore and others who have used their gifts to serve God. As we all worshipped Him together, He met with me intimately and asked what He could do for me after already placing in my heart the desire for the very thing He desired to do in me.
I want to share what He has done for me because I believe it brings Him glory, but I know that even if no one else ever knows my story, He is glorified in the act of healing me. He delights to heal His beloved children. I am thrilled to serve a God of restoration, who makes all things new, sees us both as who we are and who we will be, and who pursues us lovingly with a longing to work in us and conform us daily to His image. Before I had this healing encounter with the Lord, my name, my identity, was “Fear and Anxiety.” I know that I will still struggle with feeling anxious at times, but I believe that it will no longer define me. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross and in my life personally, I have mercifully been given a new name. When the Lord looks at me and sees who He created me to be instead of who I have been, I believe He calls me “Peace.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28895U" data-link="(U)”> the new creation<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28895V" data-link="(V)”> has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28896X" data-link="(X)”> who reconciled us to himself through Christ<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28896Y" data-link="(Y)”> and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28897Z" data-link="(Z)”> And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corintians 5:17-19
*dictionary.com defines “supplant” as “to take the place of (another), as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like.”
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