As a child, I felt my name was ill-suited to me. Amy. It was short and plain and didn’t light up a room. A short, plain name was easily overlooked. I wanted something more exotic; something that told the story of a girl who wanted adventure and loved to dream. I wanted to sound interesting. I wanted to be recognizable. I wrestled with what I perceived as a lack in the definition of who I was. As a teenager, I began to search for the reason God gave me such a plain name that didn’t seem to fit me at all. My curiosity about my name eventually put me in a position that humbled me and caused me to embrace not only my name, but an entire identity. I learned that my name means “deeply loved.” This began a journey of understanding my belovedness. While on this course, I grasped for anything and everything that might fill my glass of understanding just a little bit more, anything that might make my belovedness a reality.
I was about 17 years old, wading deep in resentment regarding my “boring” name, when God nudged me, and through some miracle helped me realize that my name was in fact one God Himself had given me, because I was deeply loved by my heavenly father. It was a strange time in my life to experience this revelation, as I had never felt the sense of being deeply loved by anyone at this the tender age. I hardly knew what love could look like outside of a hectic family life in which I did not feel truly seen or known. How can a 17-year-old who has never really felt love digest being deeply loved by God? And yet this is where my journey of understanding God as love first began.
I clung to verses that mentioned the beloved, such as Song of Solomon 3:4: When I found the one whom my soul loves, I held on and would not let go.
I held a tight grip on the verses in which Jesus claimed us as friends and shared his secrets with us (John 15:15), and promised his continued presence and comfort (John 14:18). This was what love meant to me, and God was speaking my language. But what did love mean to God? Much like the misunderstanding of my name, I wanted to assign my own expression of love to God. Not that there is anything wrong with the way I love—God created me in His image, so these expressions are mirrors of God’s expressions of love.
God’s love goes beyond what I can imagine.
I have lived with these beautiful love “notes” from Jesus even through achingly tough times, but I find it difficult to fully grasp the complexity of how God loves me without understanding the pain of a God-given promise. Three of the most deeply loved women of the Bible—Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel—were in the lineage of the Messiah, but remained barren well into their lives until God “opened” their wombs. God knowingly made their deficiency a path to fulfilling His promise to them. This gives a whole new meaning to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9: My strength is made perfect in your weakness.
As someone who lives fully-integrated in the self-sufficiency of the American culture, my knee-jerk reaction to a promise from God is, “How can I help get this done?” There was no IVF during Abraham’s time, so these women simply had to dwell in their shame and weakness, begging to be seen, heard, and valued. I can relate to begging to be seen and heard, but God made his pursuit of me clear, and I wanted to move that knowledge from my head to my heart. Struggle caused by our deficiencies rarely brings us more than a gift of shame, but God flips that narrative from shame to acceptance through his promises, beginning with Jesus. The promise of a messiah brought death before it brought resurrection, barren wombs before birth, ridicule and persecution before growth. Our lives are no different.
I continue to ask myself: How will my belovedness create a miracle of my life? I ask this question with the understanding that struggle, death, and ridicule come before God’s promise fully blooms in my life. My mind finds its way back to my name. A name that has been synonymous with invisibility, misunderstanding, and deficiency has been a doorway to my understanding the miracle of God’s love in my life.
Amy Altstatt is a faith-driven writer, passionate about women finding their own voice in Scripture and seeing how God reveals His plan and character through women as active participants in the gospel of redemption, freedom, and hope. She is currently writing a book that reexamines how God tells His story through even the most subliminal female characters in scripture. Amy’s websites are: Amyaltstatt.com and https://www.patreon.com/Adrinkofwater?fan_landing=true.