A couple weeks ago I was feeling really anxious. As always, Adam was listening patiently to my worries and scurries. In a fit of exasperation with myself I exclaimed, “I hope this anxiety is ok with you. It’s not gonna go away when we get married. I’m just an anxious person.” (So annoying, I know. The man loves me dearly and I know that.) “No, you’re not,” he responded quietly. “I’ve known you for a long time, and you’re not usually anxious like this.” His comment caught me off guard. In the past year I have become more aware of the ways in which I AM anxious, and while awareness is beautiful and vital, I think we have the tendency to begin using those realizations to let awareness spiral into a new identity.
“Huh, you’re right,” I replied, and settled back into my seat. Since that moment I’ve felt significantly less anxious because I’ve chosen to no longer hold the name “anxious person.”
I tell you this story at the risk of sounding completely crazy but I will press on. I also want you to know that I do not believe anxiety is always dissolved by deciding you aren’t anxious. However, in my life this has been a powerful method. The thoughts I have about myself and the way I talk to and name myself have always impacted me. I could blame it on identifying with Enneagram 6 tendencies, but I’m certain that most people face this. I think we could all take time to listen to how we talk to ourselves and watch its impact.
Your name is a powerful thing. It’s more than the way people address you. Your identity builds around your name from the time you’re born. It means something deep, so much more than a word. Names embody people.
What a person knows their name to be can shape who they become, a small example being my instance of naming myself “Anxious Person.” I am not an anxious person. I am a person who fights anxiety. I am Sara. This phrasing is not just the politically correct way to talk about mental and physical illness, it is a reminder to see the real essence of a person and not reduce them to something that should not define them.
When I was born my parents named me “Sara.” “Sara” means princess and that has certainly influenced the way I think about myself. In the past couple of years I have been asking Jesus what name He has given me. What does He call me? It is my daily prayer to learn His voice so that when He calls my name I will know it.
One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell of my childhood was when I was first born. He had made it a habit to sing to me in my mom’s tummy during her pregnancy. Moments after I emerged into the world I was receiving my first bath and I was not very happy about it. As I began to cry, my dad crouched next to me and whispered, “Sara…Sara.” As soon as I heard my name, I stopped crying and turned my head directly towards his voice. I knew that voice. That was my Dad. Because I knew his voice, the fear and chaos I was feeling faded. I felt safe. In that moment, did I suddenly have my life figured out? Did I suddenly understand why some strange lady was pouring cold water on me? Of course not. I was still annoyed and uncomfortable but I knew it would be okay because I knew my Father’s voice.
In the same way, I have had to learn the voice of Jesus. Like Abraham’s experience on the mountain His voice doesn’t come in the hurricane or in the mountain tumbling. It comes in the whispering wind. He crouches next to us and whispers our name as we scream in discomfort from the turmoil of this world. A lot of voices are going to be a lot louder, shouting your need to find significance through accomplishment, to prove your worth to the world. But the Papa voice whispers “Beloved” in a place deep in your heart that you have yet to find. However, if you don’t know that your name is “Beloved” will you ever know when He calls you?
He longs to replace the names we have taken from our brokenness with the names He has given us. He longs to replace your “Anxiety” with “Bright Hope.” He longs to replace your “Failure” with “More Than Enough.” He longs to replace your “Alone” with “Never Forsaken.” Are you listening?