“Names have power, like magic spells. And all of a sudden it seemed to her that her stepmother and stepsisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil.” – Cinderella
His tiny hand was raised in the air, waiting, itching to answer the question. I called him by name.
Considering I cross paths with over 600 students in any given month, learning names is basically an impossibility. Why then, I asked myself, did I know his name? His hand went down when he heard his name and another student whispered, “That’s so cool that Rebecca knows his name!”
I realized that I only knew his name because he’s one of the rowdy ones. One of the talkative, can’t-sit-still, doesn’t-do-his-work sort of children. And his name is frequently called because of that.
He answered my question perfectly, beaming from ear to ear, while I thought about NAMES.
I wondered what other names he had been given other than the one on his birth certificate. Annoying? Trouble? Lazy? And I thought how sad it would be if he thought those names were the truth about him.
We love to call things by a name. We give children names that they’ll keep for a lifetime, we give dogs names when we decide we want them to be ours. We give ourselves additional names that we think fit, like athlete or lazy or driven-student. And other people give us names that they think we need, like mom or worthless or friendly or weird or smart.
We undoubtedly end up living into those names, whether or not they are connected to our real identity.
We live into the expectations that come to us in the form of names.
Names mean something. It means something when someone calls out our name. It means something when someone gives us a name or when we take a name upon ourselves. We take on the nature of our names, because they have power.
It’s confusing when people are calling you all sorts of things, assuming you are something, expecting you to be something, making you into something you are not. Before you know it, if you’re not careful, all those expectations and names have worked their way into your identity.
We could assimilate those names people give us, and continue to give bad names away to other humans as if people are unbreakable. Or we could speak truth into our own souls and into the souls of others.
I can call out and remind myself and others of the true names – the true identity that I have in Christ.
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (Isaiah 43:1)