Called by Name


Do you know what your name means? My parents disagreed with what to name me when I was still in the womb. My dad wanted me to be "Joanna" and my mom preferred "Jennifer," the most popular girl name in 1976. Well, my dad "won the battle" and I was named "Joanna," which I found out later means, "God's gracious gift." I have to admit I liked my name a little more once I found out what it meant!

Names are very important to God, as we can see all throughout the Bible. In the beginning, God named the light "day" and the darkness "night." God named Israel His "chosen people." We read in the Gospels that Jesus called individuals by name, first to Himself and then to whatever task he had for them - like suffering, service, love and discipleship.

Sometimes in the Bible, God even changed someone's name to reflect his or her new identity. He changed 'Abram' to 'Abraham,' 'Jacob' to 'Israel' and 'Simon' to 'Peter' or 'Cephas.' Their new names reflected their new chosen identities in Him.

God first called me to Himself when I was just eight years old, living in Brazil as a missionary kid. I knew in my heart my encounter with Him was real and I wanted to live for Him. When I graduated from Howard Payne University, God called me again, for a specific task He had for me. He led me to be a missionary to Brazil, this time as an adult, to work with a missionary family in a remote part of North Brazil. Once my missionary term was over, I felt His guidance to then go to seminary to prepare for vocational ministry. It was also at that time in my life I began desiring to be married. My heart's desire was to meet and fall in love with a godly man who was preparing to be either a missionary or pastor so we could serve in full-time ministry together, if that was God's will for me.

When God brought Ryan into my life a few years later, he was pastoring in Dallas and I was working in full-time college ministry in Lubbock. We got married after a whirlwind, long-distance, nine-month courtship. The very day we got married, I became a pastor's wife. There was no time to wait or prepare. There was no "Pastor's Wives 101" class to take. Thankfully, I was shown a lot of grace, acceptance and love through this new process as I began to learn, grow and stumble to find my new place of ministry as a new pastor's wife.

What's your story? When did God call you, first for salvation, and second, for the specific task He has given you to do? Sometimes we forget in our day-to-day that the calling we received to be a pastor's wife has great eternal value, purpose and blessing and extends far beyond just ourselves or our immediate families.

You probably have a completely different story than mine of how God called you. Maybe you came into it kicking and screaming, or at least hesitant. Or maybe you were like me and knew at an early age that you couldn't picture your life any other way. But no matter your story or how you ended up where you are, God called each of us by name!

The Apostle Paul urged the church in Ephesus and us today to "live worthily of this calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1)

We are most definitely not worthy and we all fail often. I know I do! But somehow, by a miracle of His grace and mercy, He lovingly shows us who He is and what He wants for our lives as He calls our names. He shows us how to live with confidence, strength and wisdom as we minister and love our husbands, children and church members, even when it's hard and we don't know how to always do it well.

We could all agree being a pastor's wife is not easy, in fact, it's hard sometimes! But it is a high, worthy calling He gave you and me, and I'm so thankful, humbled and honored He chose me to be one! Are you thankful too? It really is a blessing and privilege. Let's live our lives worthy of His calling!

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling (vocation) you have received." (Ephesians 4:1)

Joanna Jespersen is the wife of Ryan Jespersen, Director of Urban Missions at Texas Baptists, and momma to two princesses, Rachel Beth (4) and Mary Kate (2). Being a pastor's wife in Dallas taught her a lot about the unique challenges and blessings of ministering in an urban setting. She has a heart for teaching and counseling, and enjoys crafting, thrifting and traveling with her family. She writes "love letters" to her little girls and really treasures the time she currently has being a stay-at-home-mom.

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