When we read European history from the medieval period or earlier we encounter characters that have what strike me as odd and interesting names: names like Eric the Red, Karl the Great, Richard the Lionhearted, Peter the Hermit, Robert the Bruce (although I have no idea what exactly that means) and others. Sometimes these names describe the person's occupation, but more often I think they capture, or try to capture, some aspect of the person's appearance, character, personality or behaviour. It's interesting, as well as a bit scary, to consider having your entire identity summarized in a single word.
Yesterday I was thinking about names such as these for reasons that will only make sense to those who know how my strange mind works. I began to ponder what appropriate names in this style would be for my family members. For reasons of family harmony I'm not going to share with you the monikers I came up with, but I did tell them to my wife and daughter as we were preparing dinner. I then asked my teenage daughter what name she would give me. She thought for a moment and said:
Andrew the Anxious
While I know we were joking with one another and therefore I shouldn't take her answer too much to heart, the fact is that she captured me far too well for my comfort. Out of the mouths of our teens. This saddened me, not because she said it, but because there was so much truth in what she said. I am anxious far too often. I worry about everything. I can't tell you how many times I have had to go back to Jesus' words in Matthew 6 and Paul's words to the Philippians (chapter 4). I have grown and am growing in this area, but I cannot say that I have completely set anxiety aside. I want to, but I'm not there yet.
At the heart anxiety and worry are trust issues. At the very root for me is the question of whether I can trust God. Intellectually I say yes. Practically I often say no. My actions say no. The thoughts running through my mind and the efforts I make to stay in control of my world say no. It's a painful truth. In my heart I question, even doubt, God's trustworthiness. And this despite the faithfulness he has shown to me and my family throughout my life. When will I learn?
This past year has taught me a lot about trust, about not being anxious for tomorrow, about being prayerful about everything. It's a step in the right direction. I'd like to think that there will come a point when this will no longer be an issue for me. I hope that day will come. But I've been working on it for so long now and it seems to be a process of three steps forward, two steps back. Sometimes it even seems more like two steps forward three steps back.
Thank God (and my wife!) for grace. And patience. I think if I were in God's shoes and had to deal with me I'd have given up in frustration long ago. I'm so thankful that is not how God works. And I'm thankful that the name God gives me is not the one my daughter did, or even one that I might give myself. I can think of many words I'd rather have applied to me and I hope that some of them would be accurate, words like “compassionate,” “caring,” “learner.” One that God has given me that I should hold on to and cherish above all others would be: Andrew the redeemed. I like that one.
What one-word title would summarize you? What do you think those who know you best would say?