God Named Me Jane
I remember one of the first times I read the 49th chapter of Isaiah. Oh, I remember! It was back in the 1960’s and I was in staff training for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF.) I was young and it was a time of great change for me. I was trying desperately to do it all well; to come out on top, so to speak. The pressure was almost unbearable as the questions flooded through my mind:
Was I spiritual enough?
What if I failed?
What if I don’t measure up to the expectations of IVCF?
Where do I go for friends? (travel was part of my job. My territory was northern NJ, and eastern NY as well as Manhattan. My job was to encourage Nursing Students and tell others about Jesus.)
Where would I live? With whom?
How could I possibly live on a salary of $300.00 a month in New York City?
Staff training was three weeks long and took place at the University of Wisconsin in Madison during the summer break. Three of us who were RN’s were there knowing we would be focusing on nursing students. There were two of them and one of me. The two others were housed together; I was housed with three strangers. We had a brutal schedule. We walked a mile to meetings in the morning, back for lunch, then back to meetings and back to housing mid-afternoon for meetings with my director where we were given assignments for the evening hours as we mixed with students at the University. The small group which met daily was made up of young males who were newly graduated Seminary Students--and ME! I was overwhelmed, and my director was afraid she had made a big mistake taking me on. I was feeling the same way! During the second week it was my turn to share a Bible talk with the Seminary students. I remember sitting at my desk in the dorm room looking for something to say to these spiritual heavy weights. Flip, flip went the pages of my Bible. This talk was tomorrow! First fear, then panic. I couldn’t pray; I was immobilized. I stopped at Isaiah 49 and began reading the chapter for the first time. As I read, it was as if Jesus was standing by my shoulder and reading the passage to me. I was riveted! I could not believe what I was hearing. As I read, I kept thinking, “this is me He is talking to.” Then, “He can’t be talking to me.” I kept reading and He kept speaking.
“The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother HE NAMED ME.”
He called me before I was born?
He is speaking about me?
My earthly dad didn’t choose my name, God called me “Jane” before I was born?
Jane means God is gracious, or another definition, “a gracious gift.”
I am a gift to others. Am I? He certainly is a gracious God!
“He made my mouth a sharp sword...” (Is 49:2)
God did that?
My words are not always my own?
He can use my words as a sharp sword in the lives of others?
He can give me words that bring life and not death?
“In the shadow of His hand He hid me...” (Is 49:2)
God has hidden me...I am not overlooked?
He has deliberately concealed me from the eyes of others?
What could be safer than being under the shadow of His hand?
“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.” (Ps.91:1,4)
He made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away...(Is 49:2)
First I am a sharp sword and now I am a polished arrow. I am hidden away.
How do I feel about this? It has been painful to be hidden away for so long.
For years I had heard:
“Use your gifts!” thundered from the pulpit and declared in many books.
Hidden away from whom, from what? I am not using my gifts because I feel hidden away? Or, is God waiting for a certain season?
All this time, through many experiences, I thought it was me. I thought I was flawed; that people found me: pushy... intense... rude...
My thoughts about myself had set the course of what I was able to do, but what if God was behind some of this seeming failure? What if He was hiding me away for a purpose; His purpose?
“Zion [Jane] says ‘The Lord has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!‘ Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I WILL NOT FORGET YOU. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before Me.” (Is 49:14)
(By now I am a puddle.)
God loves me this much?
God has not abandoned me?
God will not erase me if I don’t produce something?
His remembrance and compassion of His children, of me, is greater than that of a mother?
“My walls are ever before Him.” What does that mean?
I looked at the clock; two hours had passed as I sat there reading one passage of scripture in the presence of Jesus. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I was broken, and He came to me. The very next day the speaker spoke about those very walls in Isaiah 49. “He said that these walls were the fruit that God produces through us.” It was a confirmation to me that even though the passage was about Zion, Israel and the Messiah, God used it to speak to me and to minister life where there had been the sense of death.
I have no idea what I spoke on the next day in our small group. I know it had nothing to do with the God encounter of the previous day. I do know that something happened on the inside of me during those two hours which has had a profound impact on my life.
He has named me.
His Life is in me.
He will accomplish all He desires through me.
I can rest, truly rest in that assurance.
Jane Corwin Reeves