"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wear your suffering, you Crowned One

In Kazakh culture, the meaning of your name has deep significance. Parents of an unborn child wrestle with name choice not based on the sound of the name (or whether they "like" or dislike a certain name), as was my experience in American culture, but on the meaning.

Before moving to Kazakhstan in 1997, I didn't even know my name had a meaning. I had never thought of it and it had never been a topic of conversation. I knew Stephanie was a name my parent's chose, last minute actually... and I knew my grandmother (who LOVED the orchestra) thought it sounded like the word "symphony". But, I didn't know that my name was a derivative of anything in particular... and never knew the word, "Stephanie" had any meaning associated with it.

After living in Asia a while, the meaning of names began to have deep significance for us. We very specifically named our son because of his name's meaning... not because of "liking" the name or how it sounded. It was a very distinct change in my husband and I. This difference is shown in the three years between our first child (her name not picked according to meaning) and our second child, this son, VERY much given a name because of it's meaning.

The other night at dinner, the topic of names came up in a group setting. Someone asked me the meaning of my name. I nonchalantly responded, "Stephanie means 'crowned one'". As the light-hearted conversation continued, a quick internal dialogue went on in my mind. In those few moments, I distinctly thought how very disconnected I felt from my name's meaning. Did I feel like a "crowned one"? Was I a "crowned one"? I simply felt no connection what-so-ever with the meaning of my name. It was a quick thought and not terribly deep.

Only a few short hours later, during a group worship time, I had a profound experience that has changed this tremendously. It was a significant time of worship and I felt God's presence greatly as I sang of His love. All of a sudden I had a picture in my mind that was so "true to life" it was like I was looking at a photograph in front of my face.

In simple words, I saw a picture of me with a crown on my head. The crown, though, was a crown of thorns. I was wearing a crown of thorns. Interestingly, though, in this mental picture I was standing tall, proudly displaying this crown as one would display one of gold and diamonds. The picture was not a sad one, or a pitiful sight. On the contrary, it was a picture of beauty and I wept when I saw it. I don't know how to describe it any differently than that... In this picture I was modeling, with poise and a posture of strength, a crown of thorns.

In that moment, my name and my heart seemed to connect deeply. I was a crowned one. But, my crown was one of suffering. ...past suffering. ...present suffering. and future suffering. These things, hard things, that I had suffered, was suffering and would suffer were my crown. A crown of thorns. And, it was beautiful. It wasn't a crown to be scorned. It was a crown to be valued and honored. The suffering in my life was to be worn with posture, pride and strength... because He, too, had worn a crown of suffering. And, He wore it beautifully.

There is a danger in "wearing" our sufferings in a victim mentality, or in an attempt to attract attention... or to gain love and compassion from others--- this wasn't what I saw in my worship picture. No, in fact, the message to my heart was that I was to learn to wear my suffering as a triumph and a trophy. I was to wear it as a part of the beauty that Father God had placed on my life, on my head. To see my suffering, all of life's suffering, through the Father's eyes... To see what God might mean by "beauty from ashes"(Isaiah 61). To see what Father can do with a "scorned thing" like a cross, or a crown of thorns... turning it into a thing to be revered, to be honored and to be worn with dignity.

So, I connect with my name that night... or the meaning of my name... more than I ever have. And, I want to learn to walk with grace, beauty, freedom, and pride in the suffering that is beauty in my life. Teach me, Jesus. ...for you did it well. You are the Crowned One and You wore a crown of thorns beautifully!
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