“Mama, look!”, Bethany exclaims as she proudly shows me the Cinderella nightgown that her daddy bought her while I was out teaching this morning. As she spins and twirls the beautiful white chiffon billows around her, just like the dreams that she is spinning in her childlike imagination.
I know these dreams well, because they were my own. I used to dream that I was a princess. I would pretend that I lived in a grand castle and that I had a magnanimous king for a father. I think this childhood fantasy resonated so much with me because it was the furthest thing from my reality. Instead of a kind and loving king for a father, I was born to a man whose addictions prevented him from providing for his family, both financially and emotionally.
I can remember my mother quoting to me from Psalm 68:5, “God is a father to the fatherless”. Though well-intentioned, this did nothing to provide comfort to my aching heart, for I had no frame of reference for what it meant to be a father.
So often, we view God through the lens of our earthly father. Unfortunately, for many of us, that lens is damaged and broken. Maybe your father was not an addict like mine. Maybe he was a workaholic, emotionally distant, or even completely absent from your life. Maybe you had the perfect father, but I guarantee that you have friends who are currently struggling with this issue.
So what do we do? What do we do when we find ourselves in the place where we are struggling to know who God is, but we just cannot seem to find Him?
I believe that answer can be found in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find . . .” We need to ask God to reveal Himself to us. Not just in our heads, but to imprint His love on our hearts. And in doing so He will imprint Himself, because He is the complete essence of love.
Second, we need to seek. We need to search the scriptures for examples of God’s character. One of the most powerful ways of doing this is to study the Hebrew names of God. There is so much rich meaning in the many different titles that the Hebrew authors assigned to God. Studying the meaning of names such as “Yahweh”, “Elohim” and “El Roi” can help us see God for who He truly is, instead of who we think He is based on our earthly experiences.
Years ago, I traced my mother’s family history back to a man who was born in the 1560s in Ireland and who most likely came to this continent as an indentured servant. At the time, I didn’t look into my father’s lineage, because frankly, I was afraid of what I might find.
Recently, though, I was pulled in by one of those Ancestry.com commercials. You know, the ones with the little shaky leaves. When I entered my dad’s mother’s name into the search field, I was amazed to find her in a distance relatives family history file. As I followed her line back through the centuries it ended in the 1200s. And when I clicked the last link on the screen, it was like the heavens opened and the angels started singing, because the name on the screen read, “Edward I, King of England”. (For those who did not pay attention in history class, that would be Longshanks from the movie Braveheart).
When I took a chance and consulted the earthly records, I found out that I am not just the daughter of a broken earthly father. I discovered that I am the 22 great-granddaughter of the King of England!
But even more so, when I took a greater chance and sought God in the scriptures, I discovered that we are ALL the daughters of the King of all Kings and our inheritance in Him is worth more than all the treasure in all the castles on this earth.
If you can relate with the struggle to truly know God, won’t you join me in an adventure for the next 30 days? Each day, we are going to look at one name from the original biblical text. We will study the meaning behind the name and how knowing that meaning can change how we relate to God on a daily basis.
I definitely do not have all of the answers and I am far from figuring it all out. I continue to wrestle with the demons from my past on a daily basis. But I do know this, Matthew 7:7 ends with a promise, “seek and you will find” and one thing I do know about God is that He always keeps His promises.
If you are going to join us in this quest, won’t you introduce yourselves? And if you feel comfortable, share a little about where you are in your journey to know God?