As many of you know from my previous writing, I love discovering and digging into the meanings of names and since my brother and his wife included my grandads name in their first sons, I was intrigued by what it means. In this season and time it also feels like a real gift to be lead down this path as my grandads name is Raymond (Ray), which means, "Wise Strength."
Last week my Grandad passed away just a few days after his 95th birthday, his stature, kind and strong but by the end his bones were ready not to be here anymore. Ever since the birth of my first nephew and watching the deterioration of my grandad I have been pondering my grandads name. What does it mean to be strong? What does "wise strength" mean? Just a couple of the questions that have ruminated inside me.
Biblical Scripture has a lot to say about wisdom and strength. Proverbs, Psalms, Lamentations and The Prophets are just a few of the books that speak about strength and wisdom but the verse that I always think about when it comes to strength is in Deuteronomy 6 v 4-5.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength"
This scripture is commonly called the Shema, a prayer that has been recited for thousands of years. Jesus quotes it in Matthew 22 v 37-39, highlighting it as the first and most important instruction given by God at Mount Sinai to Moses. Jesus follows this up with a second instruction, "To love your neighbor as yourself". Interestingly the Hebrew words that make up the Shema prayer are more expansive than meets the eye, especially when it comes to the word for "Strength", which in Hebrew is the word Me'od.
Me'od is commonly translated as "strength", or in some translations "might" or even, in the English translation, "very" or "much". It is a word of force and presence. The word "Soul" in the Shema is a word I have mentioned before, it is the word 'Nephesh' in Hebrew which means whole living being. Just having these couple of pieces of the Hebrew has really caused me to think differently about strength.
The word me'od is also an adverb, meaning its main function is to modify other words. With this in mind, we can play. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your whole being and with all your very's", see how much fun you can have just diving a little deeper. It might not read grammatically correct but for me it gives the scripture more movement. After all, God is a verb, and within that frame of remembering our whole beings can know God's presence in the most normal mundane moments, as well as the heavier and sacred times of life.
When it comes to the word Wisdom we are also given a delicious word to expound on. The word in Hebrew is Chokmah. In scripture we are told that those who find wisdom will be happy, that wisdom is better than gold, and that wisdom is better than weapons. It is a word closely associated with knowledge but not from the sense of intelligence as the means to an end. It is a knowledge of God and the ways of Gods Kingdom, its the living out of understanding how God see's and instructs, and how this leads to being separated from the ways of the world.
So, this all might be a convoluted way of expressing how I am experiencing this season but I truly believe that what is in front of us is where the learning and leaning can happen. In this time when new life has arrived in my family and one has left us in physical form I think about what it means to have wise strength. This season has given me choice and reminded me of grace and mercy. When I have felt weak I have seen the opportunity to say God is my strength. When I want to figure it all out I ask, show me how you see and teach me your ways.
We are living in an age where we see more and hear more than ever. We internalize and analyze. We numb and suppress, we voice opinion and share creative expressions of our internal world, and well, deep down, I would like to think, we all just desperately want to be strong and wise. This is the challenge I have been walking with. My heart has ached at the pain and suffering in this world and the little portion of history I get to write in my life story. There is big picture and small, gentle and violent, new life and death, and I guess today I just want to encourage you to know God as your muchness, a force in your midst and a might in your bones. I want to encourage you in that simple truth that God is love and to hear God in your whole being, and respond with wisdom is to be alive. To feel grief and anger, joy and peace, wisdom and strength, is to know something deep down at the core of your being. It's to know that some form of separation happened from our creator. It invites you into conversation, about ALL things. Its to get to the end of a day and say you Lord are my wise strength today.