If I knew…
She stands with head hung low in dark corners of dark rooms on dark streets, thinking she belongs there, crushed under the weight of names not hers, violent screams that drown out the Voice that calls her Amada, Rescued, Chosen. She is Beloved, Redeemed, Brought Back, Sought After. She is the muse of God’s lullabies, the one in the white dress.
Does she know? If she knew …
But the names she hears are given by men who never have known their own place, their own names: kings and priests and friends and prophets, the very mouthpieces of God. They’re deaf to hear. They throw words and names and fists as weapons in the war to restore their own sense of place, not knowing, not recognizing that God already bowed low to lift them high. Nothing is left to reach for, to chase after. It has all been given.
Does he know? If he knew …
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out …” (Ex. 20:2). If you remember, you will obey. And humility just may be the test of both obedience and memory. If I remember the story, I assume a different posture. It’s a posture that re-directs, one that will not — cannot — claim glory, because I know that where I stand today has almost nothing to do with me. I look back across the sea and its drowning depth, and the only choice I have is to pull out my tambourine and dance with pure joy and relief (Ex. 15). If I forget my deliverance, I forget my standing, my place. I forget that it is already all mine. I sulk on the other side. I go wandering and reaching for both too much and too little.
Christ Himself did not consider God-ness graspable (Phil. 2:6). He bowed low, served low, died low. And because of this, God lifted Him up, and not just Him, but me with Him.
A little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5).
Do I know? If I knew …
If I knew, I wouldn’t go reaching for glories not mine. Neither would I indulge the violence and corruption and perversion that are beneath me. If I knew my name, if I knew my place, I could stop throwing elbows and extend grander invitations. I would reject the misplaced grasp to which pride compels me. Too much and too little. Beyond and beneath.
Isaiah 54 says to the desperate, displaced one: Sing out. Take joy. Extend. Stretch. Don’t hold back. Lengthen. Strengthen. Spread out. Settle.
Do you know? If you knew …
In humility, we know that because all things have been given, we are secure and can let them go, loosen our grip, extend our tents and make room for someone else. I can give the other a chance, stay back and push her forward. I can consume less and give more. I can slow the frantic pace, reject the roads that tempt me toward action not born out of intimacy and obedience. Knowing my name, trusting in the God who will restore all things, I can “sit quietly for now and cease [my] relentless participation.”1
We read in John’s Gospel narrative that after a series of healing and feeding miracles that greatly expanded His popularity, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (6:15). Too much and too little. Beyond and beneath. This kingship was not the plan. Not this reign, not this kingdom. So He withdraws, escapes, returns to the mountain, to the place of memory.
We, however, are tempted by kingship. We accept names and kingdoms not ours. We spend ourselves in roles we were never intended to assume and sacrifice ourselves on altars not ours. We become our own gods, our own deliverers. We wear crowns that are too heavy — or maybe too slight — and forsake the glory and honor He has laid upon us.
I long to be one who knows my name, who returns often to the mountain of memory to be refreshed, and who, in humility, bows low that others might know the One who names and exalts. Because I’m convinced that if he knew his place, he wouldn’t hurt her; and that if she knew her name, she would choose a different way.
1 Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (New York: Penguin, 2006), p. 155.
Heather serves as Counselor and Community Care Coordinator in El Alto, Bolivia. Her favorite part of the day is her morning coffee and theological discussion with husband Wes (pictured).