There were 38 of us sitting around a circle. We came from 11 different churches across the state. A few of us knew each other. Many were strangers. We met in the airport and chatted as we headed off for a week in Puerto Rico to help with the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Maria.
Kathryn, our group leader, passed out the name tags as she greeted us. She noted that many of us were meeting each other for the first time. She encouraged us to wear them until we got to meet everyone. I like name tags. Maybe it’s my age, but I can’t seem to remember names like I used to.
When handed a name tag, one person joked, “I don’t need one of these. I know who I am.” We all laughed. Another quipped, “I’m so glad I have mine. We got up so early today I was beginning to forget my own name.” It was all in good fun.
I always say there is no such thing as a coincidence. I believe that when that which we call a coincidence happens, it is proof that God is listening to our prayers or trying to tell us something. So when the speaker on Sunday morning started talking about names, I sat up and paid attention.
She said that seeds of pain and hurt have been planted in many people’s lives by the names they have been called. The world can be cruel and unforgiving. Many of us have accepted the names that others have given us. Names like, “loser,” “good for nothing,” “ugly,” and “awkward,” have been internalized and we live with them as part of our identity.
I was reminded of the meme on Facebook that showed two dogs introducing themselves. One said to the other, “My name is ‘Get down!’ What’s your name?’” We laugh but some of us have accepted things that have been said to us as if they were our given names. We suffer and live with pain and regret.
Have you heard Lauren Daigle’s song, “You Say?” It goes like this: “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say that I’m not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up. Am I more than just the sum of every high and low? Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know.”
The Bible tells us that we don’t have to listen to those voices. In Christ we have a new identity. God, who tells us to call him “Abba, Father,” wants to give us a new name. Just as Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul, we have been named children of God.
So believe God when he says you are loved! You are blessed! You are a somebody now! Look at your name tag. That’s who you are. So embrace your new name for you are part of God’s family now.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.