Yesterday, I was working through some things with a friend. He pointed out, “It’s times like these where we give God a name.”
Interrupting my strangled analysis, he asked, “What is God doing in you? What is your name for God at this point in the story?”
What was Abraham’s name for God after he learned it was time to leave without a clear destination?
What was Abraham’s name for God when he heard where he had to take Isaac?
What was Sarah’s name for God as she watched her son being led up the mountain?
What was Isaac’s name for God when he lay on the pyre?
At the end of that story, we call God “Guide”, “Father”, “Redeemer”, “Provider.”
But what do we call God while we’re in the middle of it?
I spend much more energy trying to “Make sense of things” than I do finding the true name of God—my true name for God—in them.
I spend more energy trying to guess what the future holds, measuring the bearing of that forecast on today than I do seeking God in the midst. Than I do trying to stay in the midst of God at work.
The Old Testament picture of God as a cloud works for me today. I stepped in.
I can’t see anything.
I remember a couple of summers ago, when some friends and I drove out to walk the Golden Gate Bridge on a Sunday afternoon. We got all the way through the tunnel in the sunshine before we slammed into this wall of fog that completely hid the bridge and the rest of the bay. No bridge. Nothing on the other side of it.
The fog had just begun to barrel in, so from higher in Marin, you could still see Alcatraz. It looked like it would be clear. We were astounded to find our beloved bridge entirely invisible behind the white curtain.
For some reason, we haven’t tried walking the bridge since.
The fog is mesmerizing here. Languid and beautiful, it makes 100 different vistas from the same spot. Sometimes it ties silver ribbons to the hillside and the City skyline. Sometimes it’s a heavy, white sheet that cloaks the landscape—the kind used for furniture in old houses before the house is closed up for good. Or for the season, at least.
That’s lonely fog.
Even though I know those sheets in those kinds of houses are for protection. Even though I know they keep the dust from ruining the furniture while everyone’s away. It’s heavy and lonely.
Those white cloaks are securing a beautiful future, but they are also setting up for a long, indefinite wait.
Sometimes, though, the furniture is draped for a different reason.
It’s possible the Owner of the House has draped the furniture because He at work, and the work is messy. The furniture doesn’t know the difference, but He is painting the walls of the place He’s preparing a spectacular color.
And it’s only a few days before the furniture sees the light of day again.
Only a few days before we realize we had the name “Emmanuel”–God with us–all along.