Living in the Names of God

Living-in-the-Names-of-God_Cover_medium-resJudy, born without legs, considered herself an Average Joe Christian until an accident knocked her off of her feet. El Shaddai, the All-Powerful God, and others of His Hebrew names, answered her SOS cry. So began a life-transforming love relationship with the God who longs to be our All in All. True life begins when human need sends out an SOS and the human heart says yes to God’s offer: “I’m here for you. I promise to bring you through. May I?”

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El Shaddai

The All-Sufficient God
The God Whose Supply Exceeds Life’s Demands

I remember Dad entreating the aid of God Almighty by voicing His name in a crisis, just like Father Abraham did in the Old Testament. But I didn’t entreat God Almighty myself until I experienced my own moment of truth in my middle years. For two decades of marriage I had depended on David’s long, strong legs like they were my own – especially when we became parents. David’s legs were Judy’s legs until his fateful fall in 1990. The compound fracture of his ankle, subsequent hospitalization, three surgeries and long recovery, meant my artificial limbs and I were on our own.

Too battle weary to pretend, my blunt honesty jumped out one Sunday at our church’s coffee table. The lady’s question was innocent enough. “Judy, how’s the family?” My intense response caused both of us to spill our hot drinks. “I’m dying. I don’t think I’m going to make it. Motherhood is killing me!”

That was the Sunday I learned the week’s truth-to-live-by after the sermon: an honest answer may be unwelcome when one asks how are you? My friend’s verbal spanking let me know in no uncertain terms that being overwhelmed was not politically-correct. “Motherhood is difficult for everyone, Judy! You are no special case.”

No sympathy indeed from that sister in the faith, but El Shaddai heard my distress call. He let me know that human inadequacy does not warrant guilt or shame; in fact, our inadequacy can become a blessing when it unplugs our ears so we can hear His invitation – If you will give Me all of your inadequacies, and come to Me in believing faith, I will give you all that I have.

Instantly, thanks to my need, El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God took up residence at the Squier home. He even made it to the lintel above the front door. And Michael Card’s song El Shaddai filled the under-construction rooms of our home as Emily’s nimble fingers made Him dance up and down the piano keyboard. (Twenty years later Emily keeps this song practiced up knowing I want it played at the beginning and end of my memorial service.)

My love affair with El Shaddai was based initially on the reality that God would infuse my weakness with His strength, but I know now there’s more. Our pastor, Bob Bonner, pointed out that the Hebrew root shad means breast. God desires more than anything on earth to be our power source. As a nursing mother nourishes and calms a helpless babe, El Shaddai wants to nourish and calm us. As the mother is the infant’s lifeline, God wants to be our lifeline. Cradled in God’s arms is where we will find peace and calm. I understood the concept immediately having breastfed three daughters.

The stories of God Almighty went beyond the walls of the Squier home; our entire community knew that Mama Squier’s power came from heaven above. As our circle of friends grew, inevitably first time visitors would inquire at the door, “Who is El Shadoo?” Invariably they’d stumble over His name. I loved listening to our daughters’ explanations, “El Shaddai is the God who takes care of us.” And when they grew older they’d add, “… when we realize we can’t take care of ourselves.” Yes, my daughters, you’re getting it, and I pray it’s a truth you remember everyday of your lives.

When the girls grew into adulthood and the physical demands of motherhood were no more, my life-sustaining relationship with El Shaddai changed. He became an old-friend whom I loved dearly, but smooth sailing dulled my dependency on Him. Not for long, however.

David and I had just returned home from our 40th anniversary cruise to the Scandinavian countries, and our daughter Elizabeth was eager to meet us for breakfast. In hand she held an ultrasound picture to confirm the news that she was pregnant. Her announcement was totally unexpected as was my response. Old fears, fears I thought Almighty God and I had conquered, pinned me to the mat: What if this grandbaby arrives with my birth defect? I’ll die if this baby’s parents have to experience the pain that mine did. On the heels of the fears came guilt. I should be the last person on earth afraid of birth defects. Didn’t I write a book about how God shows up, thanks to human brokenness?

I prayed for the joy of the Lord, but the storm did not subside until the day I accompanied Elizabeth to her third trimester ultrasound appointment. Sheepishly I asked the perinatologist (an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies) if he thought this child would inherit her grandma’s birth defects. He looked at legless me seated in my wheelchair and repositioned himself at the machine-that-tells-all. Once again he scrutinized the babe in utero and confidently announced, “I see legs, I see knees and I see feet with toes.” His words set this grandma free.

I recounted my emotional roller coaster to my 90-plus-year-old spiritual mom, Aunt Ginny, who had walked me through my first year of faith and prayed for me every day for thirty years until her dying day in 2009. “Aunt Ginny, does this battle never end? Fears that I thought were over are taking me down.” Her tried and tested faith answered, “The battle gets more ferocious each year, Judy, but we win the battle each time our insufficiency drives us to the All-Sufficient God.”

As my insufficiency drove me to El Shaddai during motherhood, yet again as a grandma I have found myself on His lap seeking the nourishment of truth and the comfort of His calming presence. Three grandbabies later, this legless Granny Goose knows where to hide out until the storm passes. Psalm 91 talks about abiding in the shadow of the Almighty, which I must again do as old fears of inadequacy can take me down. Can a grandma without legs do all the things grandmas are supposed to do? Indeed God Almighty, El Shaddai, squelches my unwarranted fears each time daughter Elizabeth tells me, “Your granddaughter Brianna woke up this morning and again the first thing she said was ‘I miss Goose.’”

And I have to smile outwardly and inwardly when I remember how one-year-old grandson Luka and I first connected. Being naturally shy, he stayed clear of the Goose until the day he discovered my stump. One morning as he walked by my wheelchair, my exposed stump caught his eye. Oh so cautiously he touched it, then went on by but came back later to touch it again. This marked his first self-initiated contact with me, his grandma. Thank You, Lord, for stumps.

I think I get it now. We humans won’t make the acquaintance of El Shaddai when our self-confidence is stoked or our love tanks are full. We’ll pass Him by when life is good. Success and prosperity cloud Him over, but it’s in the rubble of our personal brokenness, our fears, our threatened dreams, when our faith gets cold feet, that we meet Him.

Brennan Manning has a unique blessing that I’ve heard him drop like an atom bomb at the end a talk. He credits it to his spiritual director, Larry Hine.

May your expectations be frustrated;
May your plans be thwarted;
May all your desires be withered into nothingness…
That you may experience the powerlessness
And poverty of a child and sing and
dance in the compassion of
God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Brennan Manning gets it. We earthlings have strength and weakness backwards, don’t we, Lord? We pray for smooth sailing thinking it will make us strong. Smooth sailing steers us away from El Shaddai, the only inexhaustible source of strength on earth. We think we are strong when we are strong, but the truth is we can only be strong when we are weak.

The apostle Paul got it and explained it in the New Testament in II Corinthians, chapter 12. Three times Paul had asked God to remove a thorn in his flesh. We aren’t told what his physical ailment was, but we can tell it made him miserable. Miserable enough that Jesus Himself explained why His answer to Paul’s triple plea was no. The secret of the ages is that power is perfected in weakness.

Because the words came from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul heard it and believed it and passed this hard-to-believe truth on to all future generations of the faith:

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen.
I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating
the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving
in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride,
and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me
down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad
breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker
I get, the stronger I become.
(II Corinthians 12:9b-10 MSG)

I remember the first day I happened upon those verses. Flat on my back in the hospital with no strength for my upcoming master’s comps and absolutely no energy to plan my wedding day just two weeks away, I read for the first time Paul’s conclusion about true strength. My physical ailment identified with his, and I held on for dear life to El Shaddai’s offer to be all that I needed. At that moment Paul’s words became mine, and I let God Almighty turn my not-enough into His more-than-enough for two rites of passage – my career as a speech pathologist and my marriage to David Squier.

Yes, I get it, but it still boggles my mind to think that when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:10b NASB) How can it be? Truly this is a truth that should be taught to our children and grandchildren along with the song “Jesus Loves Me.” Don’t you agree?

What about You?

Have you made peace with your inadequacies? I don’t mean living in denial, pretending they don’t exist. I mean knowing them by name and allowing them to escort you into the presence of El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God.

But you say, “My inadequacies are hardly something I would talk about at a neighborhood block party.” On the contrary, because I’ve never been able to hide my oh-so-obvious disability, I find myself talking about it more often than not. And guess what? Authentic honesty about where I’m weak provides an instant bond with total strangers and an automatic opener to where my strength lies.

Are you ready to trade that sinking feeling of inadequacy for El Shaddai’s too-good-to-be-true offer? He invites you to throw away your mask of self-sufficiency, release the guilt and shame of your inadequacies and experience the relief that it doesn’t depend on you! IT DOESN’T DEPEND ON YOU because the all-sufficiency of El Shaddai is yours.

I heard the Savior say,
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all.

Excerpted from Living in the Names of God by Judy Squier Copyright © 2013 by Judy Squier. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.