Apple. Robin Graves. Sparrow. Pilot Inspecktor. And brothers, Stan Still and Sid Still.
What do these all have in common? They are names. Strange names.
One of my sons recently asked, "Do you think people basically become who they are named?" As I sat there pondering the question he added, "If you would have named me something other than Trey, do you think I would be someone else?"
After a few examples ran through my mind I answered best I could. "Well, I guess our names can affect us to some extent because they are words spoken over us, day in and day out. So, if your name causes you great ridicule at school, it would shape your perception of yourself. If you're named Bubba you probably wouldn't grow up to be a wimp. Actually, I've got to tell you a story my mom once told me about a man whose mother already had several sons and was hoping for a daughter...REALLY BAD! When yet another son was born to her, with some resentment she still named her son, Gwyndolin, her prized girl-name. Evidently, he went by Sam. Needless to say though, he was a bit of an odd duck. Furthermore, the Bible has gobs of examples of people whose names were significant. I suppose I'd conclude that, yes, your name does affect you."
To this Trey replied, "Why couldn't you have named me Awesome Dunking Guy then?!" Coming from a 6' 2" teenager who loves to play basketball, it was a really funny moment.* Trey tends to come up with strange and unusual thoughts often, but this one has stuck with me. What we hear ourselves called, day in and day out, matters.
If you hear affectionate words such as Sweetheart, Honey, and Babe, you can't help but feel loved. If you continually absorb words such as Jerk, Idiot, and well, let's just say "worse", they will also penetrate your heart, but in a devastating manner. Our words matter...significantly! What we call each other is enduring.
Parenting Confession #27 - I have called my kids names I wish I could take back. The Pharisee-half of my parenting tries to justify that it was alright because I didn't call them the forbidden "cuss words". But the Grace-half knows that it was the tone that I used that did the damage. Whether I'm half whispering, "You little TURKEY," through gritted teeth or silently rolling my eyes at them, they get the message loud and clear.
"The tongue has the power of life and death..." (Prov. 18:21a)
"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul
and healing to the bones." (Prov. 16:24)
What we call one another will ricochet in our minds for years to come. Therefore, speaking life-giving words is pinnacle! Names. They mean so much! Just as Marion Robert Morrison upgraded his name to John Wayne and Ethel Gumm morphed into Judy Garland, name changes are only golden if they are an improvement. This is why my phone says Daryl-Your Hot Husband when he rings not Daryl-Your Loser Husband. One word makes all the difference. (And "HOT" is true so that makes that one easy!)
And by the way, Dad and Mom, thanks for naming me Candi. I've always loved it. But I especially can't wait until my kids have kids of their own and I'm upgraded to GRANDMA CANDI! Best. Name. EVER! I'll have to have Smarties and Lifesavers in my pockets at all times just to live up to the name!
*Right away after Trey read this he said, "Mom! You forgot to mention that I CAN dunk the ball!" So, just to clear this up, he IS THE AWESOME DUNKING GUY even without the official name. :)
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
You go to a birthday party for a friend. Throughout the evening you meet a few new people and this type of conversation happens:
"Hi. I'm Candi." (An awkward handshake transpires)
"Nice to meet you. I'm Jane." (A courtesy smile is exchanged)
"How do you know the birthday girl?"
"We went to school together. How about you?"
"The hospital. We work together." (And then it happens... the default question asked thousands of times a day around the globe) "So, what do you do?"
It's a typical question asked when two people meet. But today I had a funny thought.
What would happen if we just came right out and asked "Who are you?"
Isn't that what we are REALLY asking? Maybe it's because we have confused what we DO with who we ARE. But what we "do" changes as life changes. Jobs shift. Positions are fleeting. Careers take u-turns. Children grow up. But who we are remains the same through all this. Whether I'm single or married, mothering or working, I'm still me. It's easiest to answer with something like "I'm a nurse; a stay home mom; a teacher; a truck driver; a secretary; a mechanic." But none of these answers the WHO question. These are all what I do, but not who I am.
How would you answer the who-are-you question if someone had the guts to come right out and ask? For me, I think I would be in such shock at the directness of the question, it would take me a while to answer and even then I don't know what I'd say. Though indirect waltzing conversations are the norm, I believe each person longs to be known. Really known. I believe there is a deeper question we wrestle with here: Where does my identity come from?
I would argue that we aren't much different than a queen. We are most often identified by what we do and who we are associated with. But ultimately, our identity doesn't come from who we are married to, where we went to college, what our father's name was, what our occupation is, or who calls us "mama", "Mrs." or "Your Majesty." Might I suggest the best place to anchor our identity is in the One who never changes. In Jesus.
I'm not suggesting that the next birthday party I attend I'm going to answer the "What do you do" question with an "I'm not what I do! I'm a daughter of God, joint heir with Jesus. I know who I am. Who are you?" No way! But if I am content and satisfied with who I am in God's eyes, I won't feel as though I need to get the approval of the asker of that notorious "What do you do" question. Perhaps I will even go as far as to share a bit more of who I really am because I'm not scrapping for my identity and significance in the "doings" of my life or the title of my name.
I'll still share that I am a musician, artist, dish-washer, wife, mother, sister, house cleaner, teacher and cook. But silently inside, I can feel content because I am also a child of the King of Kings. So, feel free to call me "Your Majesty." Haha! I'm just kidding about the "Your Majesty" part, but there is a quiet contentment that comes from knowing my identity is in Christ first and foremost and that He tells me he loves me very much.
After pondering this for the day, I think I may even try something new by asking, "So, tell me a bit about yourself. Who are you?" instead of just "So, what do you do?" I'm curious to see what will happen. Aren't you a little bit curious how people will respond, too? Try it. Let's be curious together!