- Jim Lovelady
Day 13: What is Your Name?
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
"My name is Sue. How do you do? Now your gonna die!"
I love today's song because it expresses the rawness of shaking your fist at God while at the same time experiencing the comfort of knowing who you really belong to.
"A Boy Named Sue" reminds me of Bible characters like Job, the Psalmists and the prophets who cry out in frustration to God. But my favorite is the story of Jacob who wrestles with the Divine. Johnny Cash wrote the perfect song to accompany this epic battle...
This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
God is like Sue's Dad.
This is quite an interesting passage. Jacob wrestles with this guy, who turns out to be God. Jacob is winning (winning!) so this guy (who turns out to be God) pops a cheap shot below the belt but Jacob tenaciously refuses to let go. The sun is rising and that is a problem for some reason for this mysterious man so he gives Jacob his blessing (Jacob is all about the blessings, Genesis 27) and flees the scene. Weird.
What is that blessing?
A new name.
What is that new name?
Ok. "Israel" for short.
I like that better.
Did you know that God invites this wrestling match? Wrestling with God is a part of the very identity of what it means to belong to God. God invites the accusations, the anger, the frustration. It is actually a holy endeavor. It's called lamentation. I like to call it holy complaint because we are directing the things that most trouble us to the only one who can do anything about them. So let'er rip. Direct you complaint to the only one who can do anything about it.
My name is Israel. How do you do? Now you're gonna die!
This song really gets my imagination going. There is another wrestling match in the Bible. It's where we see True Israel, the one whom God called his "Beloved Son," in the garden of Gethsemane alone and in agony of spirit. I imagine Jesus' anguish as he wrestles with two desires: one to preserve his own life and the other, to see a joy that would only come if he laid down his life for his people. Jesus, in blood and sweat, wrestled with God and finally come to this: "Not my will but yours, O Lord."
Then Jesus wrestled with mortal men at the mock trial before the religious leaders where he silently let their will be done. And it reached its climax at a crucifixion where Jesus faced off with Death itself and with three words he conceded defeat, "It is finished."
Jesus let himself lose. He laid down his life willingly and three days later, in victorious joy, he said, "Gotcha! Actually…I win! I wrestled with God and men and Death and I, God, have won (Gen 32:29) and that means that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed."
God is not like Sue's Dad.
When this song first became my soundtrack for my own wrestling with God I was mad. "You gave me this rotten life and then walked out" was my sentiment as I duked it out with God. I was so angry at the cards that the sovereign Lord had given me. Then I realized the metaphor only goes so far.
Your Heavenly Father never orphaned you.
The resurrection of Jesus tells me that the God I call "Abba" has never left me to fend for myself. It's easy to feel like an orphan--so easy it feels unnatural to imagine that God has adopted me--but faith reminds us that we are not orphans. We are his beloved children.
So in the end, it doesn’t matter what your name is, what kind of cards you've been dealt, what kind of suffering you go through, as long as your Heavenly Father is with you…and he is! So don't be afraid to wrestle with him in the midst of your suffering. Work things out with him. It is your privilege and blessing as his child. He will never leave you. He is closer than you know, Beloved Child.
Daddy, I confess that I don't want to wrestle with anyone else but you even if you leave me limping in the end. I belong to you. You have named me your child. Give me the grace to cling to the thankfulness that is inevitable when the sun rises and all is revealed. Not my will, but yours be done. Amen.
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