What’s in a Name

By: Marcy Barthelette

Creator God, You “call us by name, and we are Yours.” Ken Sampson, Walking In Grace 2024

Some years back we attended a much smaller church than today, one where everyone knows just about everyone else. I recall a short story from that church that has left a large impact on my life. It reached my ears from the Sunday School teacher who had asked each of her students who was their favorite adult in our church. One girl had indicated that I was her favorite. I was quite surprised because I’d had little interaction with her but also because she didn’t live in our town. Her mom had grown up there but then moved away as an adult. So the girl didn’t attend school with any of the church kids but her family came back to Grandma’s church on Sundays. I could always see that felt a little like she was on the outside trying to fit in.

My puzzled expression brought a quick explanation from the teacher. This lovely young girl liked me because I knew her name and called her by it whenever I saw her. It was as simple as a name.

Recalling names has always been easy for me, except now that I’m getting to that “senior moment” stage. Throughout the years when I worked, I was always in the position of needing to call people by name. It made my work a lot easier and the people I encountered regularly appreciated being recognized. My mental Rolodex (contacts folder) was extensive. It even went so far as voice recognition, so learning the names of all the kids in our small church was a no-brainer. I just had never realized how much it would mean to this one girl.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1b Isaiah 43:1 | worldchallenge.org

There are countless voices in our culture today that are clamoring for our attention and that of our children. Who do you want your children to hear? The pedophile who roams the internet in search of prey? The human trafficker lying in wait on the dark street corner? The drug dealer who might just slip something into a soda in the hope of gaining a regular customer? The kid around school who always has great ideas about how to have fun? The passengers in their car who dare them to go beyond the speed limit or do some crazy stunt with the car? The rock singer whose lyrics teach hate? I could go on and on, but I think you likely get the message. Wouldn’t you rather your kids hear the whisper of God offered through people of faith?

Jesus whispers (your name), the world screams. Which do you hear? Max Lucado

And which voices does your child hear? But, lest we forget, kids are not the only people who respond to name recognition. Adults are equally pleased when we take the time to notice who they are rather than what they are.

So, what’s in a name? Well, ask yourself that the next time your server says, “My name is _____ and I’ll be taking care of you today. Memorize that name, at least for the duration of your meal. Use it often and by the time your check is delivered, you’ll find you’ve made a new friend, one you may never see again, but your effort to know that person, even a little, may have been just the lift he or she needed.

When a cranky store clerk or a stressed-out fellow business conference attendee wears a name badge, make note of their name and strike up a conversation. These may not be long term relationships, but you never know who may have needed some positive re-enforcement at that moment when you chose to recognize their humanity.

And when you have a kid encounter, make a point of asking for a name, then memorize it so that when your next encounter happens, you can begin the conversation by addressing him or her properly. Watch out, you’re likely to be rewarded with a great, big smile.

Most importantly, God never forgets any of our names. He has them all written on His heart and He never, ever forgets one of His children.

God calls out our names. Listen for His voice and be like it too. Speak of love and beauty, trust and acceptance, grace and forgiveness—and you’ll be the voice people are longing to hear. Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love

What kind of voice are you in the lives of those you encounter?

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