I’ve been introduced many ways. So far though, the two most unique descriptions I’ve heard were made several years ago by former co-workers, who are also friends. I was stepping down from leadership in women’s ministry at my local church, and as is custom in transitions of this kind, staff took turns sharing descriptions of me at a send-off luncheon while I sat on a stool at the front of the room. Had they simply dunked me in a tub of worms, it would have been less uncomfortable, but the gesture was well-intended. We need to hear how people experience us, at least the encouraging things. Thankfully, the other descriptions were withheld, at least from this public display. Also, the church abbreviation is “GFC”. This will matter later.
Often I’m introduced by the role I play in someone’s life, “wife, sister, mother, daughter…” or by some abbreviated list of accomplishments that live on a life resume. Occasionally I’m introduced by that one strange and entertaining connection I have with someone, “…she’s the one I told you about who…” and then everyone laughs because, well, it was strange and entertaining. I actually get a lot of those.
But the two descriptions a few years ago stood out because I had no idea they saw me the way they did.
One friend was a soft-spoken, wise and vastly admired pastor who in an earlier life had been an undercover missionary in Europe under Communism. His quiet manner gave no indication he had once survived for weeks lost in a foreign country with no means of speaking the language or being able to give his real name. Often I sought his counsel, on a variety of matters, and never did he disappoint. His description of me mattered deeply, so when I heard, “fiery and winsome” it shot through me as truth.
The other friend, and co-worker, was and still is a deeply loyal and quietly diligent mother, small group leader, administrator of what seems like everything, and has all my respect. To my shock, her summary of me was, “our GFC J-Lo.”
A fiery, winsome, GFC J-Lo.
To introduce someone, you need to know them, and then think clearly enough to capture the words that express that knowing so that someone else has a better knowing of that person too.
When we get introduced we find out what impression or contribution we are making on their lives, what effect we are causing. It’s really the heart of everything because the life we are living is being etched on the impressions of those experiencing us, and this is part of our story unfolding. The pages, or people, tell us a lot. Not everything, but we are wise to pay attention.
How I introduce myself is even more uncomfortable, because with every start I counter it with a disclaimer and end up saying nothing, or the shortest simplest thing, which is not the worst thing.
Introductions are kind of a big deal really. In writing they are mission critical, a fact I often overlook until hours after I publish.
So if God were to introduce Himself, you would think the world would stop and hang on every syllable! Well, He actually did, but for a lot of reasons we miss it.
God introduced Himself, by Himself, to the world through a conversation with Moses. And he not only introduced Himself, He did it in essentially one word.
And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” Exodus 33:19 NASB
God’s one word: Goodness.
One commentary states that it isn’t clear how this is fulfilled, how God makes “all” His “goodness” to pass before Moses. Perhaps, that a “revelation of God’s ineffable goodness was miraculously flashed into his inmost soul, and the thousand instances of it which he had known brought distinctly to his recollection, so as to “pass before him.”
As if Moses’ entire life with God flashed before his eyes, and it was overwhelmingly good.
If I’m honest, until a few years ago, “goodness” was not the one word I would have used to introduce God. And it showed. It was of no fault of His, how could it be? But remember, to introduce someone, you need to know them, and then think clearly enough to capture the words that express that knowing so that someone else has a better knowing of that person too.
I wanted to know God the way He described Himself. But more than new learning, I had some unlearning to do first. I had to go back and let the stories I was telling myself about God be re-written, much like many of my blog posts need, I’m sure.
That story, of when I turned toward seeing God as “goodness…passing me by” is for another week. For this week, consider that one word you would use to introduce yourself. Are you pleased with it? What word would you prefer? What about that one word to describe God, is it close to goodness? No one will read it, make it yours, be honest. If it’s not even in the neighborhood of goodness, what could it look like to ask God for help in getting there? The journey may just get you to the word you prefer for yourself too.
I’ll share my one word, for myself, with you, even if you never share yours with me. I’ve hinted at it here in this little writing home in other places, but it is the one I finally landed on after years of rooting in the goodness of God:
That word “lovely” is far from the word I started with many lives ago, but that is also a story for another day. I know, so many stories.
Telling myself new stories about God based on the real story of who He is, takes practice. I have had to go back to my many old small stories with this new information, and my perspective has shifted over time. Remember it’s a relationship, a growing together, an intimacy that is being built.
I’m also telling myself new stories about myself, based on the real story of who I am, and this especially takes practice. This is where my mission serves me daily, to plant small and root deep. This work is not instant, there are few immediate rewards. But just as thought after thought brought me into a sad understanding of God and myself, thought after thought in a new direction will increasingly bear life in my soul.
This week may you and I both grow in our knowledge of God in the way He describes Himself, for this is the real story of who He is: Goodness. May we know him better this way, and know ourselves better too.
 Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers, Exodus 33:19, http://biblehub.com/exodus/33-19.htm