So, we had this incident in our home over Christmas. Because Santa cannot bring live pets, I went ahead and bought a guinea pig for my oldest daughter. I let her younger sister in on the surprise, and she agreed to keep it hidden in her room until Christmas. A few days before Christmas I went into the younger daughters room to say good night, and I found her in her bed, with her sister’s soon-to-be guinea pig, taking selfies together. She looked up at me, wore a huge grin, and said, “I named her Skunk!”
She named her.
It was not hers to name.
I knew this was not good.
The year was 1998. I was pregnant with my first born. I spent hours pouring over baby name books, searching for that perfect name for my soon to be son or daughter. I looked at old family names, the trending names, Biblical names, popular TV show names, and so on. It is a big deal, to give someone a name. When you name something, you claim it as your own. This naming thing was not to be taken lightly.
(We ended up with three guinea pigs on Christmas morning.)
The Good Shepherd. He calls his sheep by name. Sheep, you know, are not the brightest, but even so, they recognize the voice of the one who calls them by name. And this is powerful. This is beautiful. To have someone call you by name. To be claimed. It is why we are so touched by the movie Toy Story, when Andy uses a marker, and writes his name on the shoe of his doll, Woody. It is why our hearts ache in the scene of The Jungle Book movie, when Raksha the mama wolf tells Mowgli, her adopted son, “You are mine, mine to me. No matter where you go or what they may call you, you will always be my son.” When we are given a name, we are being assured that we belong. And oh, how we all ache to belong.
I was recently on retreat with over 200 women. The priest we spent the weekend with had such an incredible way about him, a spirit-filled presence; it was enough to simply be near him, to have him glance in your direction. Towards the end of the retreat at our final Mass, I proceeded down the aisle, to receive the Eucharist from this wonderful, holy man. And as he held Jesus up before me, and I raised my empty hands to meet his, he said, “Laura, the body of Christ.”
He called me by name.
He knew my name.
Ok, fine, so I was wearing a name tag.
But even so.
It had impact.
I was not just a random nameless woman in the crowd.
I was seen.
I was known.
And in that instant, a deep intimacy was born.
The relationship got personal.
I stood before Christ, so moved and so humbled.
The sound of my name was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.
Not because it reminded me of who I was.
But rather, because it reminded me of whose I was.
It told me I mattered.
And the tears flowed down my cheeks.
In a world where so many of us are searching for meaning, seeking out that something that affirms our purpose, it is so obvious to me, a sheep prone to wander, that what we are seeking is not a something, but a Someone. And this Someone has known us and seen us for 2,000 years (Ephesians 1:11-12). This Someone knit us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) , and carries us close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11). He knows the number of hair on our heads (MT 10:29-31), when we sit and when we stand (Psalm 139:2). We are not a nameless face in a crowd. We are known and we belong. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, no matter how far we wander or what people may call us, God will always hold our face in His hands and declare, “You are mine-mine to me. You will always be mine.”
And really, isn’t that just it?
That, right there.
To be called by name.
Isn’t that everything?
Copyright 2017 Laura Mary Phelps