I was sitting in my university art for children class (there are not many artistic bones in my body) attempting to survive when the unthinkable happened. The professor called on a student to answer her question and no one responded. Crickets! Lots of them! Finally, a friend nudged me and said, “She asked you a question?” My brain exploded. No, it couldn’t have been. It had to be someone else with an equally odd name. More crickets! It was me!! Embarrassed, I asked the professor to repeat the question and then attempted a response. Oh man! After class, I apologized to my prof, explained how to say my name, and she left our conversation with a very confused look.
It happened every week, twice a week, in my Law of Education class. My two amazing professors didn’t trust us and so took roll call for fourth year education students. Every time they got to me, there was a pause, a complete butchery of both my first and last name and then a chuckle, me laughing with them at what new oddity they could come up with and then on to the next student after me with a very boring name.
A name is so personal. When it’s said correctly, there’s a note of special-ness attached to it. This person knows me and knows me well enough to say my name. When it’s hacked to bits (even though you’ve shared all sorts of hints of ways to say it correctly), it’s an affront, an insult, a way to say you’re not important. Sometimes your name’s a term of endearment, spoken with love and affection. Other times it’s barked out as if a drill sergeant was calling you to come and atone for your misdeeds. It can be shouted, your attention is needed, look here. Sometimes it’s whispered, draw close, come in.
I think of how important my name is to me, and then I marvel at the names of God. He is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Each of them have names that demonstrate their character. God the Father is Yahweh, I AM, Elohim the God who Creates, Jehovah Jireh the Lord will provide, Jehovah Rophe the Healer, El Roi the God who sees, Jehovah Sabaoth the God who protects, Lord of armies, El Moshaah the God who saves, Ha Melek Jehovah the King the Lord… Jesus the Son is the Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Bread of Life, the True Vine, … The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, the Comforter, the Reminder, the Counselor … Each name reveals who He is and they also all reveal His love for me and attention to me and the situations I find myself in.
My name may be butchered by many, but God never butchers my name. He knows me intimately. Sometimes more deeply than I would like. I may attempt to hide things in corners that would escape his notice but the only one I’m fooling is me. In His love and mercy, He gets down into the muddle that my life is so often and He draws near. He calls my name.
Moses was in a muddle. (Exodus 33) He was called to lead the People of God into the Promised Land. They were stubborn, they liked what they had known previously. God lost it on them a couple of times. Moses did too! But Moses kept coming back to God, pleading that He would lead this stiff necked group of people onward. God promises He will not abandon them. What loyalty God shows! Moses begs God for His presence to go with them so that the other nations around them will know this group of people is different. God replies (v. 17), “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
God calls my name often with a Song of the Morning. It’s personal, often on repeat so I won’t forget it, it’s a term of endearment He’s using with me. It’s the way He calls my name. Oh to have God say of me, “I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” That is better than someone saying your name right!
Baker, M. (2013). I Am Revealed: Knowing God on a First-Name Basis. Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing.