“All you need to remember is how it sounded when you stood in the place of death and heard the living call your name.” – Jan Richardson
After several trusted friends recommended it, I sat down for the first episode of The Chosen.
The series begins in 2 B.C. with young Mary in Magdala. Frightened and unable to sleep, she seeks out her father, who is outside the tent coughing. He comforts her with the words of the prophet Isaiah.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Years later, we see adult Mary awaken, covered in blood. The scene moves to a man reporting that he was nearly killed by a demon-possessed woman.
Nicodemus is called upon to perform an exorcism on this woman, now called Lilith, but it fails. The impact of complex trauma and loss lead “Lilith” to thoughts of suicide. Tormented by the kingdom of darkness, she considers jumping off a cliff. Desperate, she seeks soothing for her shame and distress in a tavern with a drink of alcohol.
A stranger touches her, and she flees, saying, “Leave me alone.”
The stranger follows her and calls:
“Mary…Mary of Magdala. Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name. You are mine.”
Mary gasps realizing that it is Jesus. He cups her face in his hands, and she begins to weep, collapsing into his chest.
Astounded, I rewind the scene five or six times before I utter a word. Eventually, Hannah, my daughter, asks why I continue to rewind and replay. Every part of my body aches for Jesus to call my name like that. I watch in awe of Jesus but also stunned by Mary’s response to Him.
When Jesus calls her name, the words penetrate the depth of her being and show how intimately He knows her. During a misogynistic time period, Jesus calls Mary’s true name in the darkness of night behind a seedy tavern in relentless pursuit of her heart.
His eyes see her glory and her truest nature standing in deep contrast to those around her who judged her and tried to fix her, even renaming her Lilith, meaning Night Monster.
When Mary recognizes his face, she lets down her guard and allows herself to be seen and loved. She drops her clay container of spirits and falls into his warm, sweaty body, an astounding act of vulnerability.
This scene gives me an imagination for what it means when Jesus calls me Rachel of Timonium. When He calls my name, He knows every contemptuous word I’ve spoken, the sexual secrets I’ve held, and the moments when I’ve felt alone. He knows the wounds my body has borne and the times I’ve shown courage, love, mercy, and good humor.
Sin and trauma often mar our true name, and evil seeks to change our identity. At times in my life, I have been renamed “Hypersensitive,” “Selfish,” “Hot tempered,” and “Dangerous.”
There is a war between darkness and light over my name.
Mary’s heroism is exemplified in her response to Jesus regardless of all of the ways men have dishonored her. She is open to his touch and his voice of love calling her true name despite every fleshly desire to cover herself, hide her glory, and live in resignation to the name Lilith.
Her courage inspires me and reminds me that Jesus is redeeming the heroine in me by changing my name from “Hypersensitive” to “Tender One” and “Hot-tempered” to “Truth Teller.” Together with Jesus and those closest to me, we can mine for glimpses of glory in places of darkness and pain.
Mary was not afraid to recognize her frailty and hunger. In an era of Instagram influencers, political polarization, and megachurches, her story demonstrates that everyday heroism comes through surrender, truth, and humility. Could it be that a true hero recognizes her weaknesses and opens herself up to the authenticity of embodied love rather than a quick social media hit?
The Kingdom of God is a reversal where death becomes a door to heroism. May we be courageous in listening for our true name in the midst of the darkest places of our lives. May we open our bodies and hearts to the love of people who remind us of our glory and speak it regularly, and may we do the same for others.
Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her three little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon-running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael co-founded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption.