Most of us go through life not knowing who we are, what we are supposed to be doing or how we are to do it. Some of us go through life completely lost. Some of us go on a journey trying to figure it out. Some of us gave up trying and are just floating along letting life happen. Some of us spend lots of energy trying to plan and control everything that happens. Some of us invest lots of money and time trying to figure it all out. I’d bet millions of dollars are spent trying to figure out how to have the life we want, how to become the person we want, and how to know what it is we want.
I’ll admit, I’ve been all of those people. I’ve spent lots of money myself trying to figure out my life purpose, my perfect job, how to live a happy life or be more successful. Most of the information I found was great advice. Collectively I’ve learned a ton about things I can do to improve in various areas. Some of it I’ve done. Most of it I haven’t. It’s not that the advice didn’t apply to me or that I didn’t think it was good advice. It’s that sometimes I would read something and think that I understood it. But I didn’t. Not until I was in a situation that revealed the truth of the notion did I really get it. It’s like when our parents say, “someday when you have kids you’ll understand”. You think you understand. But you don’t. Then, someday, you have kids and suddenly you understand.
Once you understand, you also understand there are others who are the way you once were. They don’t understand. And sometimes you spend time trying to get them to understand, but they don’t. Until they do.
I’d like to share a story about all of those things. It’s a story about my daughter. I asked her if it would be ok to tell this story and she said without hesitation, “Yes”. It’s a story about finding yourself and finding strength inside yourself.
My daughter was always precocious. I think that’s a perfect word to describe her. When she was in elementary school she tested as one of the top 3% of kids her age in mathematics. When I told her, she said, “I hate math”. She had her own ideas about…well…pretty much everything. She one time wanted to adopt a baby kangaroo. For weeks I was sent text messages of kangaroo pictures, information on how to raise a kangaroo, and price lists of baby kangaroos that were for sale. She went through a stage where she wanted to adopt a baby sister. I went through weeks of her persistence which included adoption agency information, pictures of babies, ways having a baby would benefit us as a family, and how she would help me care for her new baby sister. Then we went through a hairless cat stage….At any rate it wasn’t really out of the ordinary when she came to me asking if she could change her name. After all her stages and crazy ideas I figured this was just another phase. By now I had learned to do the dance with her. I was proud of the brilliant idea I hatched to appease her and avoid the inevitable conflict. I told her that she needed to think about it for one year and if she still wanted to change her name then we would consider it. Crisis averted.
You know how someone says something that at the time doesn’t seem all that significant but over time proves otherwise, that’s what happened. The thought stayed with me in the back of my mind. I wondered what would make her want to change her name? I was remarried, but she had a relationship still with her Dad and his family. They had a good relationship. She enjoyed time with them. Her brother shared her last name . I filed it away somewhere in my mind. I waited for the answer to reveal itself.
Over the course of the next year I watched her. I watched her at school. I watched her at cheering. I watched her with her friends. I watched her with her step sisters. I watched her with her brother. I watched the activities she did, who she did them with, and I watched the things she was saying, and I watched the things she wasn’t saying. Then tragedy struck. Her Dad passed away. She was 11. Her brother 14. The loss was devastating. Their family came together. They celebrated his life. They shared their pain. They shared their memories. They drew closer. They allowed myself and my husband to be with their family during a heart wrenching time. They shared with us love, we felt humbled to be included in such a showering of kindness at a time of indescribable grief for us all.
We tried to pull our lives together. We tried to get back to normal, but nothing was normal. Months went by and we began to develop a routine. We moved forward with a giant void and tried to maneuver life in our new circumstance. We were in the midst of trying to understand what was happening when life threw another jab and I was laid off from my job. I was so tired and emotionally drained that it was a relief to not have to get up and go to work everyday. I took the moment to thank God for the time I was going to spend with my kids at a time they needed me most. I knew our finances would be a struggle but losing their Dad put everything into perspective.
Eventually things seemed to settle down. Every one found a level of comfort in being together. We were starting to accept what this new life was going to be like….And then she asked again. I couldn’t believe she was still asking. A year had passed. It had passed with virtually no mention of her wanting to follow through with this idea. I had thought it was a phase and now…here it was again and I could tell she meant it.
I explained to her that it would most likely result in hurt feelings. She begged me. She felt more strongly about it. We sat down and talked sincerely about why she would want to do such a thing. As we talked she described the hurt she felt when she was left out of the recognition her step sisters enjoyed. Because they shared the same last name they were often placed together, announced together, even their names were posted in sports event flyers together. She felt hurt and unimportant. They were being placed on the same teams and she would end up on another because she had a different last name. She felt like she wasn’t part of the family and talked to me about several instances where their names would be announced for awards, ceremonies and at football games and everyone would recognize they were sisters but she would stand alone. She felt alone because of it. In fact when she was placed on different teams, I would have to go back and request they all be on the same team (even though I usually requested it at registration, the officials didn’t catch it because she had a different last name). At school their friends didn’t believe she was part of the family. Teachers didn’t know they were “sisters”. They had been together since she was 3, to her, to them, they are sisters. She felt in essence like her sisters were in some elite club that she could never seem to gain membership to. She felt left out. She was hurting. When I looked into her eyes, I saw her broken heart. She wanted to feel a part of our family. She wanted to be one of the girls. Now since her Dad had passed, she wanted to feel part of the family more than ever. She wanted to be identifiable. She wanted to belong. She wanted to be counted. She wanted to matter. I couldn’t disagree. In fact over the course of the year I had witnessed many of the events she was now reminding me of. I suddenly understood.
I agreed. We filed the paperwork. We paid the fee. We received a date. The day came.
I remember driving to the court-house. The air seemed heavy. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful summer day. But still the air seemed heavy. There was a foreboding. My daughters phone rang and before I knew it I was on a fullblown guilt trip by some who didn’t agree with what I was doing. They were upset, they felt it wasn’t right. Her Dad had passed and it seemed to them like I was rushing off to give his daughter my new husbands last name. They were beyond hurt and told me so.
It was all very emotional. It was confusing. I wanted to do the right thing but I didn’t know what the right thing was anymore. My daughter was crying. I turned the radio down and pulled the car over. I told her we couldn’t do it. She was sobbing. I felt like the worst mother on the entire planet. I just needed to think. “Lord, help me know what to do.” I prayed. We sat there for what felt like an eternity. The entire year of events passed through my mind. I saw all of her pain, her disappointment, her heartache. I made up my mind then and there that I would take whatever wrath, judgment, and criticisms that came my way. I loved her enough to endure all of that. This wasn’t about them, or her Dad, or my husband. This was about my daughter. This was about what she needed. We had 10 minutes to make it to the court-house. I pulled back onto the road and gassed it.
The hearing took only about a minute. The judge signed the paperwork. We walked out the door. She officially held the same last name as her sisters. The heaviness had lifted. Her entire countenance was different. The very atmosphere seemed to know it. We got back into the car. The sun was still shining, the sky was clear and blue. I started the car and pulled out of the courthouse parking lot. As we drove in silence I leaned forward and turned the radio on. Big Daddy Weave was playing exactly at this part, the words sent chills up my spine, “I don’t have to be the old man inside of me, ‘Cause his day is long dead and gone, Because I’ve got a new name, a new life, I’m not the same, And a hope that will carry me home.” I looked over and she was smiling as big as a Cheshire cat.
As I drove I was thinking about the events leading up to that moment. I felt God impress on me an important lesson. My daughter had always been a part of our family. We didn’t feel any different about her regardless of what her name was. She held the same level of importance t0 us. She had always mattered, counted, and belonged. She had spent a long time telling herself otherwise. She had spent a long time thinking something that wasn’t true. She wasted a lot of energy worrying about doing something to make herself more significant.
I felt like God had pointed his finger in my face and asked, “Do you know who you are?” You see we spend so much time trying to figure out who we are and trying to be significant. And I know it’s corny but it’s true, we don’t take the time to know Who’s we are. We belong, we matter, we are significant. We are part of a family. We are children of a King. We are heirs. We go around not even realizing how important we are. We have authority we don’t know we have. It’s time we let go of all the names the world has given us….unworthy, fat, stupid, unqualified, unable, alcoholic, addict, failure….Christ loved us enough to endure all that for us, we need to take on a new name, a family name, as a Child of the King. You are redeemed.