When it comes to why I love and serve Jesus, there's only one motive that can come to mind: thankfulness that He changed my life. Not only has He made changes in the past, He continues the work of change as I surrender and submit to Him.
I've shared this with most of the people I know, but never shared it on this blog. It was in my very long "About Me" section of FaceBook for the majority of five and a half years I had a profile. Strangely enough, some people actually read the whole thing. It was pretty neat how some folks would ask me about it after they read it. Okay, right, sorry, time to get to the story.
Whenever I meet a new person, I always introduce myself as Zechariah. Friends and coworkers call me Zach or Zeke, but professionally it's always Zechariah. Lots of people hear that and ask, "So were your parents really religious?" Instead of Jesus-juking and saying "Yeah my parents were religious, but I got into a relationship with Jesus Christ," I have to get to the bottom of the issue: "I wasn't born Zechariah."
I was born John Kelley Brewer, Jr. They called me Kelley so I wouldn't be confused with my father. Makes sense. Here's the problem: after I got into school, I was a kid who got picked on, and having a unisex name is an easy target. It got to the point where I couldn't look someone in the eye and tell them my name when I introduced myself.
The summer before high school, the same summer Papa died, I received a personal prophecy: "God is going to change your name, just like He did in the Old Testament, just like He did in the New Testament." I wasn't saved yet, so I had no clue what he was talking about. I didn't doubt it, I just didn't really know how to move on it. That was August 1st, 1997.
A year later, I surrendered my heart to the Lord. For the first time, I heard His voice, as He told me, "I want you to be different from the world around you." I got saved, I was going to Heaven, but the prophecy had yet to come to pass, so I tried to make it happen myself by adopting my first name. At school, I would write my full name on everything. My band director called me John, along with certain band members. To everyone I met online, I was John. That was fine. But eventually, social groups started overlapping. People who knew me as Kelley met people who knew me as John, and I had to reconcile the two. Result: the John crowd joined the Kelley crowd. Then I'd meet new people hanging around with the Kelley crowd, and contemplate whether it was worth the explanation. One friend, Henry Bethard, circumvented this problem by introducing me as Thelonius. He still calls me that to this day whenever he sees me.
The summer after graduating high school, I was back at the same camp where the Lord had spoken to me summers before. One particular night, the night after He taught me how to dance with Him, He drew me aside alone. I thought I heard someone approaching me, calling, "Hey." When I looked, there was no one there, and I knew in that instant that it was the Lord. I sat down on a bench, then leaned over and laid down, my head in His lap as it were. He called me John Kelley, and then He called me Zechariah. I remember thinking, "Zechariah? That's an awesome name. I never would have thought to change my name to that."
I remember waking up the next morning and wondering if it was real. "Why wouldn't it be?" came the reply. I almost doubted it. He wouldn't let me. I looked myself in the mirror, and knew I had a new name.
When I got home, I looked it up. Zechariah is Hebrew for "The LORD remembers." That means He remembers every time I was picked on, every time I mumbled my former name, every time I struggled with what to call myself. I tried to shorten it in introducing myself, but I knew I had to use the full name. Zechariah. Even today, I say it and I feel its power. I remember myself what things were like before, and how amazing it was to have my name completely changed, from something I was ashamed of to something I could be proud of.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
-- Revelation 2:17.
That's my story. And that was only the beginning. God has been so faithful to change my life. He's still working wonders in me. He's still doing miracles. And He remembers.