A few weeks ago I was listening to music on my phone in the car, like I normally do. Switchfoot’s song “24” began to play. I sang along, because I know the song well. One of the lines, “Wrestled the angel, for more than a name” grabbed my attention. I knew it was referring to Jacob wrestling the angel/God in Genesis 32, which I’ve heard rehearsed since I was a kid. It’d been a long time since I’d read the story, so when I got home that night, I picked up my Bible to refresh my memory.
After reading the story I thought about it for a while, trying to figure out why that line had stuck with me. Jacob had wrestled the angel in the middle of the night and wouldn’t let him go until the angel blessed him. The angel touched Jacob at his knee, taking it out of socket and leaving him with a permanent limp, but Jacob still pushed on, demanding that the angel bless him. He did eventually bless Jacob and gave him a new name: Israel. It was the name change that caught my attention, but again I wasn’t quite sure why.
The next week I was listening to Audrey Assad’s song “Wherever you Go,” and a couple of the lines again caught my attention: “Wrestling angels till dawn breaks through. There’s a blessing and a wound and you’re running from it.” Again it was a reference to the story of Jacob. I was beginning to sense that God was trying to tell me something, so I kept my ears open, straining to see what He was trying to say.
Last Tuesday I was Celebrate Recovery, and after we got done with sharing in our small groups we were “dismissed” and allowed to talk freely with the other women in the group. Our group leader was sharing about how that week God had placed it on her heart to look up the meaning of her name. God had been encouraging her that week to grab hold of the meaning of her name and stand by it, confident in her own identity. I was amazed at how what she was sharing with the group correlated with what I’d been stewing on the past couple weeks: the meaning of names.
The problem was, however, that I already knew the meaning of my name, so I didn’t think that my solution was quite as simple as looking it up. Hannah means “full of grace,” and it’s something I’ve known for years. It’s also something I’ve aspired to.
At this point I started telling people about the odd change of events around the idea of name meanings. I started researching other people in the Bible who had their names changed by God, thinking that maybe there was something in there I was supposed to discover through research. That wasn’t it.
Saturday night I got on Facebook and read a blog post by a friend and fellow blogger who had recently discovered the meaning of her first and middle name. I knew for a fact now that God was really trying to communicate something to me, but I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what it was.
I was quite overdue to talk to my mom on the phone, so I called her this past Sunday. I talked to her for a bit about routine things, and then our conversation wound down, so we said our goodbyes. But hours later I still had a nagging feeling that I needed to talk to her about this mystery I was trying to uncover, so I called her back. I explained the series of events and waited for her response.
“Hm. So what does your name mean?” she asked.
“Full of grace,” I replied.
“What does ‘grace’ mean?” she responded. I was puzzled and started grasping for the dictionary definition. As a kid raised in church my whole life, I kind of knew what it meant. I knew what “graceful” meant. But I couldn’t describe it, so I typed “grace” into Google and looked at the results:
Noun: Simple elegance or refinement of movement.
Verb: Do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.
The noun definition made sense. It was just about what I’d expected to find. The verb, however, was what got my attention. “Do honor or credit to someone/thing by one’s presence. I read it to my mom, and it began to sink in.
I burst into tears. My mom responded to my apparent silence: “Hannah, I think it’s ironic that you’re trying so hard to please God and honor Him with your life and with your time right now, and that’s exactly what your name means. To honor or credit to someone, God, by your presence.” I was crying too hard, and trying too hard to hide the fact that I was crying, to respond. I stood there in the kitchen speechless with tears streaming down my face, as my mom continued to encourage me. I felt like a little girl who’d been trying so hard to get Daddy’s attention, and then he’d finally turned around to smile at me. It was as if He was telling me “Hannah, it’s ok. You’re going a good job. You’re living your purpose right now. You’re exactly where I want you to be.”
And He’d been trying for weeks to tell me that. I’d been so discouraged… I was tired and ready to give up. But God Himself was encouraging me. I’d never experienced that before. Numerous times He’s sent people to encourage me when I needed it, but never had He sent me a series of signals designed to tell me something Himself. I was amazed.
I was reminded of much God really cares about us and loves us. He doesn’t just take care of our needs. He encourages us when we’re feeling down with positive words, if we’re open to listening. They weren’t words of correction, which I’ve gotten so used to. He was spurring me on, being my cheerleader. Even now the thought brings tears to my eyes.
I’m learning to relate to Him in a more personal way than I ever have before. And He’s been speaking to me on levels I hadn’t expected. It’s such a cool experience. But it’s slow sometimes, and I have to learn patience and wait for the process. I don’t always get answers when I want them. In fact, I usually don’t. But I get them when I need them. And only God knows what I really need. Long story short, I’m loved. And Daddy is taking care of me.
2 Corinthians 6:18
And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.