When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 and I was 33, there was no estate to divide, no money to deposit, no silver to share. When she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but mostly because there were questions I would never have answers to.
That was over 30 years ago and sometimes the melancholy hits me hard.
But each year when Easter comes around again, the Holy Spirit reminds me, “I can bring life from death, joy from sadness…I know what it’s like to feel alone.”
I do have some sentimental possessions from my mother, though. There’s a framed charcoal of a young boy kneeling on the ground holding a daisy in his hand. It hangs on the wall in my hallway and of course every time I see it I think of her. She said she bought it because it reminded her of my son Aaron, her first grandchild (the one on the rocking horse above.)
I also have my mother’s falling-apart Bible, given to her on her February birthday, along with scores of letters. These are precious treasures she left behind.
But the most important legacy? My name. When she passed, though, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. I never knew the story of who I was named after. It never occurred to me to ask her while she was alive (and my birth father was not in the picture–he left us when I was 5); now it was too late. I never heard the history, the whys, the whos, of my name. There was no connection to the past, no legacy left to me via family; I didn’t like that because names matter.
I wondered ~ my mother was Helen Elizabeth and I got neither name. I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? I had been called that all the years I can remember. (Of course, when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!” )
“Who was I named after, anyway?” kept coming back to me.
Fast forward to my own grandchildren, who were given remarkable on-purpose names, Biblical names, as were my son and daughter. Each one turned out to be a truer fit than we could have ever imagined–they match their namesakes perfectly.
Yes, names matter.
So imagine my joy when one day several years after my mother died to find my name in the Bible right there in God’s story.
Luke Chapter 8 records this about the ministry of Jesus:
“1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God:
and the twelve were with him,
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward,
and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
Joanna was a believer in Herod’s palace? In the middle of all those unbelievers?
She is mentioned again on the first Easter morning in Luke Chapter 24:
“8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven,
and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James,
and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.”
Joanna was one of the first 3 women to see Jesus alive after the Resurrection?! Wow.
Reading these words, God spoke to me clearly that HE knew me before I was born, He planned my birth and my name, even if my parents didn’t know Him at the time.
It turns out my mother left me with so much more than ‘just’ my name, a charcoal drawing and her Bible–she gave me a legacy that was spoken before I was born. A forthtelling of who I would be–the best of names–a Christian–‘little Christ’.
Yes, Easter is true and there is a resurrection and living hope and a Redeemer who buys back all those years, wasting none of our tears. He knows us before we are born and names us on purpose.
God. Redeems. It. All.