Knowing Your Name


“A rose is a rose is a rose.” Lots of varieties of roses exist, but rose plants do not suffer from identity crises. They do not try to mask themselves with the red berries of a holly tree, nor do they call themselves black-eyes susans.

We humans struggle more with names, identities and behaviors. Parents usually take care and give great consideration to choosing a name for a baby. I say usually only because my dear mother-in-law received a name at birth that was meant to honor two of her mother’s dear friends, Floss and Celia. Sure enough, Flosscelia!

Thankfully, born on June 17th, Mom’s  middle name, June, served her well for her 94 years here on earth. Not only did she never use her first name, but she also avoided even the initial F, simply signing June G. Wolfe!

 

 

Parents use a child’s name from the very beginning. They want them to know who they are, and often tell them the origins of their names. Checking out a library book of potential baby names now is a regular part of pregnancy. What does the name mean? What’s the origin?

My mother used to say that we only give children middle names so the parent can call first AND middle names when the child is in serious trouble!

My brother and I knew that if mom used both our name, we had better be moving –and fast — because she was not happy.

Theologically speaking, name confusion abounds currently. Do people refer to you as a person of faith? An evangelical? A conservative fundamentalist? I read bumper stickers and billboards that proclaim “Believe” or “Hope.” Believe in whom? Trust in what? Bumper sticker theology never allows enough space for explanation or discussion. Brevity may be the soul of wit,but issues with eternal consequence deserve more. Rob Bell’s book proclaims Love Wins. Are things that simple at the end of this life?  While scripture speaks of  God as loving, He is also just. Not to consider more attributes of God than love seems to disservice  the queen of the sciences, still considered to be theology, despite those like Carl Friedrich Gauss, who claims math is the queen.

I find that my mind travels back to who God declares His children to be. Created in His image, fallen, redeemed in Jesus Christ alone, being restored and sanctified all our days here. I believe Jesus wants us to understand: This is who you are, so live this way. Mind you, doing that means asking Him for the grace to live that way moment by moment.

I was reminded today of a story attributed to Alexander the Great. It goes something like this: One of the generals of Alexander the Great has a soldier who was undisciplined and always causing trouble. The officers had tried many ways and for a long time to whip the unruly soldier into shape. On one occasion Alexander was examining his troops. The unruly soldier was pointed out to him and Alexander asked the soldier his name. The soldier responded, “My name is Alexander.” Alexander the Great exclaimed, “Soldier, either change your name or change your behavior.”


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