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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

The Key to Everything

I think I stumbled upon a key to a treasure this week. Maybe this sounds dramatic. And maybe it is.

Maybe this thing is totally obvious to one who has studied—pastors and teachers. But honestly. I can’t think of one sermon I’ve ever heard about it. And seeing it the way I’m seeing it now, it should be the one Sermon everyone is talking about.

Of course, it might be I wasn’t paying attention. It happens this way, like it or not. The epiphany comes, the light turns on, and there it is, plain as the nose on your face, and it’s everywhere. And you feel the fool for never seeing it it before.

It took three things, converging.

The Psalm I’ve been memorizing, these past few weeks.

And the specific chapter in the book I’m writing.

Which, I suppose, is how it goes. The stars aligning, just so. Don’t worry—I do understand where the credit is due. It’s just how it always seems to happen when God has something important He’s teaching, and it comes in three’s. So pay attention.

It has to do with The Name.

YHWH. Yahweh. The LORD.

The Name.

And it is—please don’t miss this—the key.

Now. I need to decide how much detail is important to share. Because, of course, there is more than you’d want or need to know in one post. And being a storyteller, I of course, am bent to share at least some of the details of the tale which leads me here.

There is a stanza in the psalm-poem, once written on an index card, and prayed, repeatedly, over my son. Five sons, eventually, each boy had a verse on a card, with a few penciled prayers. And this one was Luke’s:

Teach me your way, Lord,

that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,

that I may fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

And now lately, the psalm-prayer, has been my own. One line, one stanza, at a time. I have taken it to memory, taken it to heart, until I find myself, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, eyes closed, lips moving, not realizing my husband has entered the room, and he thinks maybe his wife is a touch crazy. Maybe.

Because the king who wrote the poem has given language to my own heart’s story. And he who lived in a palace, claimed to be poor and needy. (Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy…Ps. 86:1) And how many times, these past rough weeks, have I sat here near my own sunny window, my own castle on top of the world… (Just yesterday, when my friend stopped by, she looked at the 20 bulbs in our living room light, and said exactly this. It’s a castle.) And I, like King David, can be poor and needy, even in this.

And then, I come to verse eleven. And it is exactly what I’ve needed. Teach me your way. Give me an undivided heart.

And as I pray, I remember—it’s a poem.

It is a poem, which means, the two lines go together, and so do these two others…

…that I may rely on your faithfulness

…that I may fear your name

At first glance, it is easy to acknowledge. Of course, yes. Teach me your way/an undivided heart. And everything hinges on His faithfulness, right? But wait. Just maybe…

Could the real hinge be His Name?

(Very soon… lightbulbs exploding.)

Because. If it’s a poem, then probably, someplace, the theme will repeat, and always, always, it means something.

And I know when I get there; the key to it all. Is verse 15.

But without the Story, I would have never known.

The last thing I wrote. This book I’ve been writing. For a decade, or longer. Now adding another layer. A few things missing, and just this week, Moses’ story. And these exact words (please read them):

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness… (Exodus 34:4-6)

Stop right there. Did you catch—His Name??

The Lord, the Lord.

Yahweh, Yahweh.

Compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness.

This is His Name!!

Here it is, again, verse 15 in the Psalm (epiphany):

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,

slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

This is HIS NAME!!!

I word search my Bible, and you can’t even believe how many times it’s repeated, again and again, it is everywhere. Exact phrase. Exact words. And make no mistake, it IS no mistake, the writers of scripture, prophets and poets, knew exactly what it meant, and they meant for you to know it, too. Whenever you read it. Whenever you hear it. You are hearing His Name.

The key. The hinge.

For me. For you.

For Luke.

My son, whom I’ve prayed for, who once taught his mother to read the hard things through a cruciform lens. To read the old stories—ancient and awful—always knowing. This is who God is.

His Name. YAHWEH. Faithful. (Which is to say, compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love.) Because.

This is His Name.

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