I was named after my dad and a Barry Manilow song. My mom was looking for something that would rhyme with my dad’s name, Randy, and it just so happened that one of her favorite songs at the time had a perfect suggestion. So “Mandy” it was. Although I haven’t always loved my name – my name it is – and I think it suits me well.
Names are powerful. We start recognizing the sound of our own name at just a few months of age and for most of us, it’s the first word we learn to write. It’s the word we use to describe ourselves when we meet someone new and successful leaders know that one of the keys to influencing people is to learn and use their names. Some of our happiest feelings come from hearing our name lifted up in honor or praise. There’s power in hearing someone speak your name.
A few weeks ago, I walked into a worship experience with a stressed out, burnt out, grumpy, walled-up heart. I’d been waiting for this for months, so I should have been excited, but I just wasn’t really in the mood.
When the concert first started, one of the leaders prayed that God would be present and that He would speak and move in the hearts of everyone there as we worshipped. I agreed with this prayer, but only for the other people in the room – not for me.
I partially and reluctantly sang my way through the first song. I felt that if I engaged and participated, I would only be a hypocrite because my heart just wasn’t there. As the second song began, I remember thinking, “This is gonna be a long night…”.
But somewhere in that song, even though I didn’t feel like I should, I raised my hands and sang anyway. Even though I felt like a failure and a fake, I made a conscious choice to worship – to lift up the name of Jesus – even if I was lifting it up from the pit of my mess.
“Your Name, Your Name is victory
All praise will rise to Christ our King”*
The very second I raised my hands, a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt God speak to me so clearly. It was almost like He called me by name to let me know that whatever I was feeling – it was okay. I could still worship, because my worship wasn’t about me.
Psalm 95:1 says, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD”. At the core of worship is a lifting of our voices (“let us sing”) and our hearts (“for joy”) to the Lord. We “shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (v. 2) because of who He is (“the Rock”) and what He has done (“our salvation”). We worship simply because He is worthy of our praise.
The name “Jesus” means “the Lord saves”. When we worship Him, we are elevating that “name” – who He is (“the Lord”) and what He has done (“saved”) – above ourselves and above all other things. We lift our hands to symbolize the lifting of His name above all other names.
Before that moment at the concert, I thought I wasn’t worshipping, but I actually was – I was just lifting up the wrong name. In my refusal to sing and engage my heart, I was really just elevating the name of “Mandy” over the name of Jesus. In my funk, I was proclaiming that who I was, what I had done, and how I was feeling held more importance than Him. I was created to worship – it’s a natural part of being human – so if I’m not lifting up His name, there’s a good chance I’m probably lifting up someone else’s, most likely my own.
If you know me, you know me as “Mandy”, but what you may not know is that my real name is actually “Miranda”. Other than a brief attempt to redefine myself in college (“Miranda” sounded so much more sophisticated), I’ve never been called this name, but it is what you’ll find on my birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport.
Oddly enough, the name “Miranda” means “worthy of admiration”, which also suits me well. Not because I am worthy, but because my greatest temptation is to worship my self. My greatest temptation is to elevate who I am and what I’ve done – even if who I am and what I’ve done has left me in a pit.
But when I make the choice to lift Jesus up instead, I give Him the chance to be who He is and do what He does best – He is, after all, “the Lord” who “saves”. When I lift up His name above my own, I open my heart to hear Him calling my name. When I lift up my hands, it’s like reaching out to Him so He can lift me right out of my pit.
Psalm 95 goes on to say: “For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.” (v. 3-4)
As believers in Christ, whether we are in the pit of failure or the peak of success, the sinkhole of grief or the pinnacle of blessing, the valley of defeat or the summit of victory – it’s all in His hands. No matter where you find yourself today, the choice to lift up His name is the same choice. Even if your heart isn’t there, thats okay – you can still worship because your worship is not about you. It’s not about your name, it’s about His.
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:6-7)
*”Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship, 2015