Change My Name, God

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“I told Jesus be alright if you change my name …
if you change my name.”
—Roberta Flack

P_Lisha

“Christianity hasn’t been tried and found empty … it has been found difficult and left untried.” —G.K. Chesterton

I started seminary this fall. The three-year-long whisper-turned-roar led me to apply when I gathered the courage to open my mouth and share the dream with a friend.

Each day is different. The mile-and-a-half walk to school lends time for a thoughtful but heavy processing of the day before. Slow, purposeful steps help me up the hill. The goal? Establish my footing and tread lightly.

The Bible I carry feels like an explosive in my bag—a volatile, combustible expression of a radical Love far deeper and more complex than I’ve ever known. I’ve based my entire adult life on a relationship with Its truth and it feels like we’re meeting for the first time. I simultaneously resist and lean into this new world.

On hard days, I imagine a cluster of ideas wound around my neck, bound together like a string of pearls that don’t belong to me. They don’t fit. They don’t feel right. They don’t feel true. Reflex pulls my hand toward my throat. Shocked by ancient myths and multiple voices, I hold each precious stone before letting it fall to the floor.

But the truth is a flame I can’t blow out. The wildfire of the Word lights my way and, by grace, I nimbly weave myself around its beautiful mythical mystery. The truth is an inferno, an incandescent flame. In the wake of the blaze I find ashes and the charred remnants of a faith now tried. A faith that is gold.

This is the place of deconstruction, a critical analysis of my heart’s philosophy. It is the perfect place for God to unravel and restore.

A few weeks in as a seminary student and I’m already pulling back layers of stories I’ve passionately connected to for more than 20 years. I’m surprised by what I’ve not noticed. I’m healed by what I feel. My eyes are opened to see empathically. My eyes are opened to feel and experience a personal vulnerability. And God is there in the awakening, my compass and guide.

This is the awakening to a new identity. And I choose God. Again.

More than anything I hear God asking what I think, asking me to process exposure to the theology of respected scholars and to have the courage to choose—to choose Christ again.

Before seminary, I didn’t understand the full power of a personal truth. My faith, though experienced, felt untried. I’m born of a beautiful legacy of faith that felt mired in the anonymity of tradition. Besides the hard beauty of that history, the legacy of my faith felt like something I inherited. I hadn’t earned it.

Faith is a battle. To bear the weight of the good news, is to fight. This encounter with the truth won’t leave me unscathed. It’s my job to hold on.

As I secure my footing to stand firmly planted on the solid rock, my wobbly kneed faith deepens. I’m loving God with my mind, as my professor would say, and in that loving, letting go. If I’m strong enough, I’ll release my faith to the cross. I’ll watch it die and be reborn.

This is where I lose my faith to find it. This is where I emerge from the resting space of my faith chrysalis.

It’s here I tell God to change my name.

There is nowhere to go from here but out and up. It’s time to fly. I trust God with my transfiguration.

This life is a holy war. Each struggle and victory is waged in the heaven or hell of a heart. We have to be strong enough to reclaim our faith afresh each day and to choose, again and again, a God who challenges and changes us. To choose a God who wrestles with and renames us.

And so it is—I am Bhatia, daughter of God.

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