A couple of weeks ago I was able to take part in a prayer retreat with a local church. Part of the retreat involved a time of listening prayer where a group of people pray for you, listening to God and any word of encouragement he would have for you. Since these folks were complete strangers to me, I was astounded at the accuracy and meaningful words that they heard from God on my behalf.
Of course, I should not be surprised, but any time people actively seek God and hear from him, it feels truly supernatural. Yet God wants us to hear from him daily and to take his words to heart. Too often, though, we want to treat such things like a crystal ball where our fortune is told. God does not reveal our lives in such a manner, and he is never to be treated like a magician performing tricks to please us. What God is wanting to do is reveal our true identity to us, the identity he sees when he looks at us. He is wanting to free us from the identity that restricts us from becoming who he made us to be.
Among the four people praying for me, there was a theme that each of them picked up on. Rest. Joy. Delight. Refresh. Out of which flows power and sure steps. Let me reiterate, these people had no idea who I was or even how I came to be at this retreat. They didn’t know about the years in the mobile home park. They didn’t know of the pain of my past. They didn’t know of God’s open doors in Chicago. So when they pray about this being a time of rest and play, they didn’t know how desperately rest was needed. When they prayed about healing from years of pain, and receiving power and love from Jesus, they didn’t know about my heartaches and heart breaks. When they prayed about delighting in God and from that coming sure steps, they didn’t know that I had so often operated out of a sense of compulsion that pushed delight and joy aside trying to forge the path I believe God placed me on, where I was the one to make things happen not God. When they prayed about letting God refresh me even as I gave to others, they didn’t know how much I had poured out yet not taking adequate time to refill.
So when God spoke about rest, joy, delight, refreshment, and even play, I knew it was him speaking. He knows me so well. He knows that I will try to take control even when I know not to. He knows that I’ve been doing so well in not taking control, yet I needed the reminder to stay the course, to take a break, to be refreshed by him. I needed these reminders at just this time.
This prayer retreat brought back memories of another time, in 2010 just as I was venturing into Wauconda, when people prayed for me in a similar, though extended, fashion. As I remembered and then re-read the notes, I was astounded to hear the same themes. God was wanting to bring freedom from the past, to bring joy and delight in the present. Not only that, but God’s view of me was of delight and joy. Through the years in Wauconda, God brought that all about. Wauconda was the time when God said, “It ends here. Pain from the past and suffering from not knowing who I made you to be ends here.” Through a lengthy process detailed in this blog, God brought a solitary tree into a place of growth, reproduction, and community.
Since I moved to Chicago, I have had a year of amazing joy and freedom. Fun, delight, and joy flow unimpeded, aside from a few hiccups. God dealt with the hiccups, because he knew that only in delighting in him will my steps be sure. From the joy of being his daughter, called by his name, and embraced as a dearly loved one will come the opportunities for discipleship and justice, the things that stir God’s heart and mine. I do not need to strive for them, only for God. I do not need to conjure up opportunity, God will provide them in the right time and place just as he did in bringing me to the city. My job is to delight in him. That’s all.
During another part of the prayer retreat, they talked about the name God gives us. Sometimes God changes our name to indicate the person he is making us to be. In my case, God simply needed to remind me of the name given to me at birth. I don’t know my parents’ story in naming me, but I know God’s. God reminded me that my middle name is Joy. Joy is God’s promise to me. Joy is also who I am.