One of my favorite moments in the Gospels occurs in John’s account of Jesus’ post-Resurrection encounters. It’s when Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Lord. She finds that Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb and begins to weep, fearing that someone has stolen His body. As she is crying, Jesus comes to her, though she doesn’t recognize Him right away. He asks her why she is crying and she believes that the man she is talking to is a gardener, so she asks him where Jesus’ body has been put.
And all Jesus has to do to make Mary realize that it’s Him is say her name.
Though Mary had heard her name called so many times, by so many people, every one of those people probably had a unique way of saying her name that she knew was distinctly their own. Jesus was no different. He held her name in His heart and in His speech with a particular sweetness that no one could replicate. And I can only imagine how much tenderness and love filled His voice as He addressed His dear friend, and how much joy pierced Mary’s heart when she heard that voice that she feared she might never hear again. The voice that forgave her and called her to be His follower. The voice that continued to call her “friend” and to embrace her with mercy and love whenever she strayed.
Mary knew that voice. Jesus knew that she did, and that He would only have to say so much to bring her peace.
A few years ago I entered into a period of desolation in my walk with Christ. I couldn’t feel Him anymore when I prayed, when I went to church, when I thought about Him. Everything that I thought I knew about Jesus and my faith had fallen out from under my feet, and I felt unsteady and anxious as I faced the darkness ahead of me. As I began walking through that darkness, I found the band Mumford & Sons. They quickly became my comfort and a source of light and hope in my confusion and hurt.
One song in particular, “The Cave,” became a fast favorite. The chorus contained one sentence that became my battle-cry as I faced my darkness:
“I’ll know my name as it’s called again.”
I etched those lyrics deep into my heart. Because I knew that line was about me. I had gotten so caught up in my identity as a Catholic before my darkness that when that darkness came, I felt like it was robbing me of my very self. I let it take me away from my faith. In my darkness I waited and waited for something to call me the way Jesus had called me a few years ago. I heard His voice so clearly and so sweetly at a high school retreat, and I kept hearing it for three years. And then, suddenly, silence. I became convinced that the silence meant that I needed to listen for something new, that something else would call me and take the place that Jesus once occupied in my heart. So I kept listening. Nothing really grabbed me. But I knew I would hear it someday. And I would rise again, strong and sure, when I did. Just like the song said.
I wasn’t sure whose voice I was following when I became a missionary in West Virginia. But as my time as a missionary continued, it became clear to me that Jesus had called me to West Virginia and that He was calling me back to Him. He was the last thing that I expected to hear in my listening, since I had felt so abandoned by Him. But I knew it was Him. I knew because His voice was so lovely, as lovely as it was when I first heard it in high school. I knew because it spoke love and truth and mercy, just as I had remembered from years ago.
I knew His voice, like Mary Magdalene knew it, because it spoke the peace that I was so desperate for. Just by gently calling my name.
Aren’t we all Mary Magdalene, seeking something that can speak to our deepest longings and put our fears and questions to rest? Something to still our fluttering and wandering hearts, something to fill our emptiness?
I’ll know my name as it’s called again.
I didn’t hear my name being called in any of my desperate pursuits as I went through my darkness. Only when I silenced myself enough and got away from those pursuits did I understand that Jesus was still calling me. He was the only thing that could give me peace, the only thing that could make me stand strong and sure like I thought I would when I heard that lyric in “The Cave.”
I do know who I am. I know my name because He knows it, too, and He speaks it in a sweet, secret way that no one else does.
I know it because the way He speaks it gives me life and peace and joy and hope like nothing else can.
I know it because when He speaks it, it is as if my whole story, my deepest longings, my greatest needs, are contained within that one sweet whisper.