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God, Is This How You Really See Me?

By Laura J. Bagby Sr. Producer Deliberately positioned on top of the curio cabinet in the living room is a graceful figurine of a young woman with hands clasped together to the side in gentle expectation. It’s a quiet, minimalist piece simply called “Joy.”

At first, I didn’t think this sculptured rendition truly epitomized the expression of joy. Something a little more energetic would have suited her character better, I thought. Maybe if she were dancing, then I would have automatically thought joy. But there was something very solid in her stance that spoke of withstanding storms with a hope deeper than happiness. After several moments of careful consideration, I deemed this was an accurate depiction of the name that she bears.

I got this statuette for Christmas from my Auntie Pauline in England, and it resonates with me. I smile whenever I look at it because it is a reminder of what God is repeatedly fashioning in me, of how God chooses to see me despite my faulty human ways.

Joy. Yes, the spirit of joy. God amazingly calls me Joy.

I had been praying consistently for the better part of last year, God, I want to see myself the way that You see me. I had prayed this way many times before, but during this new season of change and transition, I was desperate to really rest in God’s revelation, and I had a strangely hopeful expectation that God wanted to answer my heart cry with something good.

All the other times that I had lifted this thought up in prayer, I was fearful what God might show me about myself and the way He viewed me. I was ready to be lambasted with labels like “Angry,” “Failure,” “Afraid,” “Not Good Enough,” “Unacceptable,” “Unattractive,” and the like. I had lived under those self-imposed labels for quite some time based on past experiences and my own misinterpretations.

And due to several years of difficult trials that affected my close friends, my family, and me personally – things ranging from loneliness and depression to serious illness and death – I had adopted the attitude that God wasn’t pleased with me, didn’t have good things in store for me, or maybe He simply just sighed and tolerated me. When I did have periods of calm or success, I was fearful that the other shoe would drop and some other tragic situation would threaten my peace and throw me once again into a downward spiral of sadness and self-pity. I felt doomed to live in the shadowy cycle.

But something amazing started brewing last year. It certainly wasn’t immediate. Around this same time last January, I could never have even fathomed what God had in store for me. All I could see was that I was frustrated and tired and a little jealous that my roommate and good friend for five years was engaged to be married sometime that summer. I felt lost with the knowledge that I was being booted out of my comfort zone. I was mad and sad and afraid all at the same time.

And yet…there was this really interesting idea that flitted around in my head, and it was beginning to gain momentum. Could it be that there is more for me? Could it be that God is moving me on to better things in this new season of my life? Can I actually dream of good things again? I could hardly voice my thoughts because I desired them so much.  Dare I even whisper them?

My fledgling thoughts were echoed early last year when one mature Christian man at CBN spoke over me in a chapel prayer time two simple phrases: “resurrection life” and “divine hope.” I pondered those concepts for a couple of months trying to decipher what it all meant. I thought it might have to do with my family situation or maybe somebody else I knew. But ultimately, it had everything to do with what God was trying to birth and rebirth in my downtrodden and perplexed spirit.

As I timidly touched my toes in the water of change, God met me more than halfway. Not only did He provide me with a peaceful new residence with a wonderful roommate who sincerely likes my outgoing and sometimes raw self and sees God’s beauty in me – a perspective that still astounds me – but He helped me to understand that my identity is not tied into my frustrating circumstances. Yes, there will be pain and suffering. Yes, there will be disappointment. But my name isn’t “Pain and Suffering.” My name isn’t “Disappointment.” I do not remain as I once was. I am not the sum total of my past. Like Jacob after wrestling in the presence of God in Genesis 32, I have been given a new name. His became Israel; mine is Joy.

If I look back on my life, I can see there were inklings that God had placed joy in the core of my being from the very beginning. My mom describes me as a happy baby with a ready grin. As a young girl, I loved making my parents laugh with my silly antics. I still have the poem my father wrote to me the year we lived in Germany of how my “laughter rings like bells” and “sends chuckles round the walls.” I was 8 then. I even had schoolgirl dreams of one day becoming a comedian on a TV sitcom. As I matured into a young adult, folks would shake their heads and groan good-naturedly at my terrible puns and bad jokes.

I didn't know then that this was God-ordained. I just figured it was the lighthearted side of me, no big deal, something everybody had. I didn't view it as being very important or spiritual. I even thought maybe it was a bit unrealistic of me to be so joyful in this responsibility-laiden world of ours. Many folks in the past had misunderstood me and thought that I was shallow and not taking anything seriously. I often reacted by putting a cap on my delight as a means of not offending anyone.

But last year I started really paying attention to the exuberance spring out of me, like when I would be twirling on the ballroom dance floor. Many onlookers noticed it too and would beam with delight as they watched me completely enjoy myself out there. Wow, what's happening here? I wondered. This outward display of childlike wonder was contagious. But, I can't be this happy. Am I faking something here? I started to doubt this deposit within my soul. Is this really me?

Finally, I had it confirmed at yet another prayer meeting. A man I don't know at all took one look at me and said during this time of personal ministry, "I hear the word joy. You are a very joyful person." He continued, "He [God] has given you that as a shield." I have those words on tape just in case I ever forget.

And you know what I think now as I have let this perspective soak in? Without wanting to sound in any way irreverent, I truly think God gets a kick out of me when I am joyful. I think He loves it when He sees me clap my hands and throw my head back in peals of laughter or kick up my heels in enthusiastic dance. It actually ministers to Him. My inner deposit of joy blesses Him. Isn’t that amazing?

What about you? What’s your name? Who has God called you to be? I know that when all is stripped away, you and me, dear Christian brothers and sisters, we are ultimately "Overcomers." But what is it that God wants to birth in you personally?

I pray that this year you will come to a fuller understanding of how long and high and wide and deep God’s love is for YOU. He truly loves you as you. We are being molded in His image, and we often view that as Him tearing us down and breaking us so that He can make us into what He desires. Yet, that isn't the full picture. The other side of that story is that God is building us up just as a potter builds clay upon clay. He builds on that which is pure. He grows and expands that essence that is of greatest value to Him. That lump that has been deposited in us is continually being fashioned and increased – not for our glory, but for the glory of God.

Ultimately, what beauty becomes visible in the molding process of each of us is meant to be brought back to Him in joyful worship. Remember, it is He who names us; it is He who calls us that which we are. We do not name ourselves in pride or a better-than attitude. Rather, in humility, we offer our new name for His glory.

My hope is that through the joy God has given me, others will come to know Jesus in the freedom and delight that God so wants His children to experience on this earth. I hope others will come to truly know His good pleasure.

May God show you Himself in a personal way this year and whisper in your ear as a loved one might the desires of His heart for you, His vision of your true identity.

Part of what stirred me to write this article was reading portions of Dan B. Allender's book To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future; copyright © 2005 by Dan B. Allender ; published by Waterbrook Press.

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