I stood alone at church, three seats in from the aisle, melding my voice with the others around me as we sang the verses on the screen. My husband was traveling, my children at their own service, and while I wished for familiar company next to me, I expectantly settled in for the service.
The worship leader announced communion, and people started to file out of the aisles and to the front of the church where members of our congregation waited to serve us the bread and the wine. Although this time, as the line parted and I approached the cup and the plate, instead of it being Laura from two isles back serving the elements, it was our pastor Steve holding them out to me. He spoke, “Amy, this is the bread which represents the body of Christ broken for you….” I was startled. My pastor just spoke my name, so easy off his tongue, yet as I walked away I was caught off guard. Not that my pastor knows my name, for I know he does. Our sons played soccer together and many Saturday we stood on the sidelines cheering the team on together. My husband traveled on a mission trip with Steve this summer, with many discussions of family and faith. Steve and his family have been to our home. But, in that moment where things seemed so formal, so holy, the act of communion, knowing and speaking my name while serving me the brokenness of my soul and redemption of eternal life, it seemed….surprising.
I slowly took my seat, asking myself why that seemed odd, for isn’t this how my holy, redemptive God speaks to me? Does He not address me by name? Not only by name, but by hairs on my head, intentions of my heart, thoughts, actions, breaths as I sleep? I pondered. If there is surprise in the moment my pastor speaks my name, am I even more surprised when God, the creator of all things, the earth, the stars, the moss on a tree, the colored feather on a bird’s wing, addresses me?
And not just that, but He looks me in the eye and calls me “Amy” while handing me the bread of life, and the cup of salvation.
We would be surprised, wouldn’t we? To hear our name audibly spoken by Jesus. But we shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be. The relationship I have with God is real, it should not cause any reaction inside but easy, worn-in familiarity, much like when my husband or children call out to me. But even deeper, since in this relationship there are no secrets, no hidden parts of me from Him. There is total acceptance, unconditional, eternal love. I should shift my body, angle my head to his voice, with a easy and expectant heart, much like I would with a friend who has walked the long road of life with me.
There are a two distinct times in my life where God has audibly spoken to me…and in those moments I have felt deeply connected to Him, and his understanding and response to me in the midst of my circumstances left me without a shadow of a doubt that he knows Amy. This experience at church reminded me that in all those thousands of other moments where His voice is still present in my life, although not audible, we are familiar friends who know each other’s names. It is deeply connected feeling to have, lest I not need to be reminded again.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
A Psalm of David. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.