When God Names Us

By Sara Hagerty

When we chose her name, we had a two-dimensional version of her in our inbox, accompanied by four sentences. Three of them spoke of what she wasn’t: clear of HIV, fatherless, and without a real home.  Even her picture was indistinct; she wore the uniform of the orphanage that was now her home.

Buried in there was the only information we had on her personality: “she is a very active girl.”

We, like you, chose a name knowing only the gender and that this baby could kick — except for us, she already had five years of life which held mystery.  She lost her first tooth in Uganda; we never saw it come in before it left.

Hope, we decided as we drove, with the Rockies to our backs and across the Kansas plains. The barrenness which winter left behind, that February, seemed an appropriate back-drop of this name — one that was more about us than it was about her, at the time.

This was our year to hope, to learn the lines of His face and walk away all filled-up with that which His Word tells us doesn’t disappoint[1]. We were choosing Him over our circumstances, having had a small taste that circumstances look a whole lot different when He overshadows.

So her name was an extension of us, of His work in us. Little did we realize that this pick was perfect, both for who she was and what she would be. Her name would be our signpost.

Five months later, I saw her for the first time. She fumbled nervously over the doll we brought to her and I kissed her cracked and soiled skin as if it was baby soft. Hope had its work in even our first encounter.

 

Sara and Hope

Sara meeting Hope

She led us around the orphanage, proudly, anxious to show us her bed. While she boasted in her native tongue about the care she’d taken with her bedspread, my eyes fixated on the only sprig of light in that drab room. Amid greys and blues and browns, hers was the one bedspread that had color. And it spoke in color.

We hadn’t told her yet of her new name. But she’d been sleeping under it for months. He was speaking over her, even then.

 

Hope's Bed spread

Hope's bedspread

The days that followed revealed this child as more than just “very active.” Nerves from a life lived long on the streets kept her from slowing down. “Catch me, Daddy” she cried across the field as she darted out of sight after he said “come here.” Love in any form made her run. She proudly wore the title “mischievous” which one of her care-givers had given her.

She had become this identity of which they spoke.

When Nate held her tight and whispered another word “I love you; you are my daughter,” her formerly-fatherless self vomited on his chest.

In the face of love, unbroken, that we continued to pour out against her misbehavior, she crumbled.  The Father, in us, who had been fathering her[2] all of those seemingly empty years, imparted a steadfastness into our inner-man. The God-Man inside of us was unrelenting with the girl who was becoming her name, well before we saw it.

He gives life to the dead. He calls things that are not as though they are.[3]

Weeks later, in a casual conversation while still in Uganda, we learned that she didn’t have a surname when she entered the orphanage. Then, before she knew of us – and before they knew of us – they assigned her the name suubi.

It means “hope”.

The Lord was working another story in the life of this child, whom many might call too-far-gone. He had been re-writing her, even before we arrived on her scene.

And now He was asking us to participate, because the history of the way the Word dwells among us is for it to take on flesh[4]. Our lives intersected with hers over the kind of hope we’d prayed into our year, but expected to first grasp before we were required to live. Little did we know we would find this hope undisappointable[5] as it was being dispensed into us for a just-in-time outpouring.

We got to behold Him as we lived Him, for her.

So we’ve spent months, now, speaking that which circumstances and behavior didn’t necessarily reveal, but what the promises of His Word told us for her and for us. We put Him on and believed that this valley of weeping would become a spring[6].

We did what He does to us. We saw life and we spoke it into being. We told dry bones to breathe.[7]

And friends, they did. They are. Our little girl is becoming her namesake.

 

Hope has entered our home this year because God called us to engage with bleak, dark hopelessness — the kind people write about as case studies in books, and it has exposed that when we partner with His Word and His whisper over a person, change is possible.

This isn’t Pollyanna optimism, this is God wrapped up in flesh. Our flesh, as we step into the great mystery — His Spirit within us[8] — and see with His eyes and speak His Words.

We exchange our fear for His love[9] and everything changes. No situation is too far gone, no estimate of a man is the final estimate – but His.

This Sunday, her knees bounced up and down as she belted out “Jesus, You’re beautiful” among hundreds of others in one chorus. It was as if she’d never known Him otherwise.

Her feet stood still, in one place – “Mommy, did I have good self control?” she asked me afterwards. She had shed fear of boundaries for a love of them.

And the parts of her we’d given permission to move gushed with an enthusiasm she couldn’t contain.

My little girl wore love.

At home, after church, she repeated over and over – this time, in her own chorus – “I love my family! I love being a Hagerty! I am so happy!”

His recomposing of Hope started long before we gave her this name, long before her picture came into our inbox. He knew, before the days her world unraveled and life left her fatherless, that her story would speak a better word.

And, in His mercy, He is letting us – in the midst of having our own stories re-written – participate.

Hope Hagerty

Hope Hagerty

 

More about Sara

sara hagerty

 

Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of four whose birth canal bridged the expanse between the United States and Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. God met her and moved in her when life stopped working. And out of the overflow of this perplexity, came her writing. You can find her at Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First,second pictures compliments of Mandie Joy , http://www.mandiejoy.com/, Fourth picture compliments of Lucy O Photography, http://lucyophoto.com/

 

 

 



[1] Romans 5:5

[2] Psalm 68:5

[3] Romans 4:17

[4] John 1:14

[5] Romans 5:5

[6] Psalm 84:6

[7] Ezekial 37:4-8

[8] Colossians 1:27

[9] 1 John 4:18

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