Community In A Name

It started about a week before Easter.  In the span of a morning, I felt like everyone who worked for me had either stopped me in the parking lot, ambushed me in the hallway, or popped into my office, all beginning with an eager, insistent “Ma’am…”  I closed my door for a moment, looked up at the ceiling, and whispered, “Can I just not be ‘Ma’am’ for today?  Can I please just be ‘Jessie’ for a bit?”  Outside of church and family, literally the only one who calls me ‘Jessie’ is the local Starbucks barista – and that’s only because that’s the name I tell them to write on my drink.

Why does it matter?  I mean, being called “Ma’am” is some indicator that I’ve gotten to a pretty sweet place professionally.  And when I’m not called “Ma’am,” people normally use Short SKATE – my callsign – which, in and of itself, has special meaning to me.  But “Jessie” is who I am underneath and outside the uniform.  It’s informal and vulnerable.  It’s what those who truly know me can and will call me.  It’s probably the truest version of myself.

As the Easter weekend began, I thought about how powerful names – and the names we are called by – actually are.  Jesus could easily have said, “You will address me as Lord.”  And we would have.  Obviously.  And we do, because He is.  But we also get to call Him Jesus.  There’s something intimate in that.  Jesus gave His life so we could have life, but He gave His name so we could have relationship.

When I found myself whispering at the ceiling, I wasn’t bemoaning my leadership status; I was craving community.  I’ve held fast to the definition of community that I learned many years ago while in IVCF:

Community is knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, celebrating and being celebrated.

This definition, of course, leaves out the reality that community is having important, heated discussions, but trusting the others in the discussion and being open to, and grateful for, the perspectives they bring.  Community is being held accountable, where shame isn’t used as a weapon, and everyone is invested in everyone else’s growth.  Community is protected, valued, safe.

Community is precious, and I think we all long for the deep bonds that come with it.  We long to be known by name – real name, not just a rank or a title.  We long to be able to rest in the security of being loved so much that there is a profound trust and security in how we act and speak and risk.  We long to be able to pour into others, even as they pour into us, because there’s nothing but growth in such relationships.  And wow, don’t we long to be celebrated?

We long for these things, but we worry about the vulnerability that is necessary to make community happen.  I challenge you to lean forward – with people you trust – into community.  Know their names – their real, preferred names, and know them.  Love them.  Serve them.  Celebrate them.  And may the same be done for you.

The Never-Ending Pursuit

My daughter accepted Jesus as her Savior today.  This was a decision that I’ve long prayed for, but never pressured her to make.  After all, a pressured decision of this type isn’t real, and if it isn’t real, what’s the point?  We had actually had a conversation about it last week, but I sensed that she wasn’t quite ready, so I opted to “plant seeds” and move on, trusting that when the time was right, she’d know.  Apparently, the time was right this morning.

What’s so funny when a child makes Jesus their Lord is that the gravity of what has just happened is often lost on them.  At that stage of their lives, there is no shadow for God to light up, mountain for Him to climb up, wall for Him to kick down, or lie for Him to tear down in His pursuit of their hearts.  (Yes, I am a really big fan of Reckless Love.  How could you tell?)  The decision is simple and big, but not “the weight of the world just left my shoulders” big – because, hopefully, they haven’t been carrying that kind of weight.

But someday, they might.  Actually, they probably will.  My daughter will have shadows and mountains and walls and lies to contend with – because she’s human, because she’s got a heart, because her decision today doesn’t make her perfect and impervious to the junk out there.  But it does give her hope.

Hope, you guys.

She doesn’t even really know that she needs hope yet, but I have enough perspective and have walked enough painful roads to know that she’s going to need hope in spades. Because we all do.

When I think about the choice she made today, I’m amazed.  Not at her, but at God Himself.  He could have sent His Son to die on the cross, raised Him three days later, and called it good.  He could have said, “Ok, world, I did My part.  I did more than My part.  Now it’s on you.  I’ll be waiting.”  But He didn’t, and He doesn’t.  He pursues us.  The cross was enough, but He didn’t stop there.  Our decision for salvation is enough, but He doesn’t stop there.  Every day of our lives, He continues to pursue us.  Even when our souls belong to Him, He is lighting up shadows and climbing mountains and kicking down walls and tearing down lies because having us wasn’t enough.  He wants us to live fulfilled, abundant lives in Him.  So He pursues, because He loves us…recklessly.

To be pursued by our Creator, by our Savior, by the only One who could see us at our best and our worst and love us unconditionally.  Wow.  And when you find that your little one – the one you asked God for, the one you’ve prayed countless prayers for – has begun to have an inkling that she’s pursued by Him, it’s kind of incredible.  Because His pursuit of her heart continues His pursuit of mine.