What are the names that God calls us? What do you call yourself when no one else is around? God has many names that He calls us, and some of them might surprise you.
Pebbles to Rocks
Peter was absolutely outrageous in his love for Jesus. He declared him the messiah immediately and repeatedly. He declared his love and devotion for him unceasingly, and swore he would die for him (and eventually did). He attacked a soldier to defend Jesus at his arrest. He was so bold and unrelenting in his discipleship that I am always a little surprised to read that Jesus didn’t award him the title of “the beloved disciple.” I always expect it to be Peter who is receives this honor. Peter, who had the audacity to think he could walk on the water like Jesus. Peter, who had the faith to actually do it for awhile. Peter who got scared by the wind, and started to sink.
As I’ve worked on my painting of Jesus Walks on Water, I’ve really come to love Simon Peter, or Peter as he’s more commonly called. Only Peter wasn’t his given name. His birth name was Simon, which means, “pebble.”
On one of his earliest encounters with Jesus, Peter calls himself something else, “a sinful man.” But instead of calling him “sinful” or Simon (pebble), Jesus called him Peter (Petra, rock). If that isn’t love, I don’t know what love is. Jesus saw something in Peter that no one else did.
As I was doing my research for the painting, I thought it was interesting that Peter could probably swim. That’s right, historians say that in the early first century fishermen would have to get in the water to retrieve their nets. But, to Peter’s credit, it was dark, the weather was bad, and the waves had the potential to get very high. While the Sea of Galilee is actually a very big lake (who else had always pictured it as the ocean?) it was known for its bad storms and high winds that can cause ten-foot waves. So the wind blowing was apparently no joke. I imagine it could be terrifying, even for an experienced swimmer and fisherman.
As I read about early accounts of Peter’s growing discipleship with Jesus, I can’t help but wonder if something went to his head? I can’t help but wonder sometimes if he was that guy. You know, the one who drives everyone nuts. Always trying to be the teacher’s pet. How did he go from an “I’m not worthy to even be in your presence” to the boldness of, “command me to walk on the water to you”? Was it the whole rock-name thing maybe?
Rocks to Rubble
I have known since I started this painting that at some point I would tell the truth about it. I have several truths to tell. The first truth is that the image came to me at the darkest point in my life. The details of why or what don’t matter. At some point everyone I know has encountered this kind of darkness. If you haven’t, then I hope you never do (and please email me to tell me how you’ve managed to avoid the pit thus far).
My particular pit came in the form of so many really ridiculously crappy things happening all at once, not only to me but also to the people whom I love most, that I’m surprised my friends didn’t think at some point that I was just making stuff up. God. Bless. Them.
On the outside, I could pretty well hold it together Monday through Saturday. But, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, there were some days… ok a lot of days that I cried during church. I didn’t want to. It was very embarrassing. But I did and couldn’t control it. My friend told me that it was because the Lord just got to my heart in His temple. Probably true.
Anyway, if I wasn’t crying, I was taking notes. If I wasn’t taking notes or crying, I was doodling this image over and over again as I listened to the pastor’s words and the songs that felt like arrows in my wounded heart. It was like God was talking directly to me.
When God first put this image on my heart, I told Him to find someone else. I explained to him that my name is not “great artist” or “great Christian” or any other name that should paint such a thing as His Son. I was telling Him my name was:
- Trapped by life.
- Not as good an artist as ______________.
- Not as good a Christian as _____________.
Of course I didn’t talk with others about my true names. To them I was a lot of other, more socially-acceptable names. But God knew. We could be honest with each other. He knew the truth about me. So, that’s why I kept telling Him that he had the wrong gal. I actually remember sitting in church and feeling him nudging my heart as I mentally listed all of the other artists I knew who would be a better fit for the job. Go ask them, I thought.
For some reason I can only attribute to his grace, He kept nudging anyway.
I can’t tell you how many church bulletins were scrawled with doodles of this image. How often it played through my mind when I thought the waves were going to drown me. The image became a promise that went like this:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you. When the waves swirl around you, you will not drown. There will come a time in your life when you will leave the pit and be up on top of the waves, riding them to shore. Feeling the wind in your hair as you move so fast across the water. Over top of it. You will feel the sun on your face instead of the crippling cold and darkness. Then, you will complete this painting. It’s already done.”
The Rolling Stone
Just when we think all is lost, enter the rolling stone. After Jesus’ death, Simon Peter seemed like a different man. A broken man. A man who found out what he was really made of and did not like it.
Jesus no longer calls him Peter (rock) but instead calls him Simon (pebble) as he asks Simon three times if he loves him. As a young Christian, I pictured this as a demotion and chastisement. I felt more than a little sorry for Peter and a little confused. But now after being knocked around by life a little bit more I see it as not a demotion of Peter, but a promotion of Christ.
Peter finally understands that it’s not about him. It’s not about his words, his faith, his proclamations of undying loyalty. It’s about humbling himself in love to show not his eloquence or outrageous demonstrations of faith, but the love of a servant to the lost sheep.
Notice the progression:
They call you pebble => I call you rock => If you love me, you must make yourself a pebble (to feed my sheep).
The White Stone and the Good Book
The book of Revelation is probably my favorite book. It’s stunning beauty takes my breath away. But that’s for another post. In Revelation, God promises us a new name written on a white stone. It will be a secret; something only he and the recipient will know. Whether you take that as literal or metaphor, please don’t miss the beauty there!
Through His merciful love and beautiful word, God responded to my snivelings of inadequacy with a new name for me. These are the names He calls ALL his precious children. He calls us:
Do you know your name, my friend? God does. God calls all of us these names, if only we accept the invitation to become His children.
In His Love,