Thursday 12 January 2017

What's in a name?

At the end of last summer, Lori brought home a new puppy.  I talk about him lots and I’ve written about him before.  He’s a super cute merle coloured chihuahua we named Yoda.  I’ve said, more than once, that we named him Yoda because we hoped he would be a wise little man with big ears, just like Yoda in Star Wars.

He’s nine months old now and still hasn’t really grown into his name.  Not at all, in fact.  Wisdom still eludes him.  But he’s sure cute and he’s got time.  We’ll see.

Sometimes I wonder if he’s aware of his name and our expectations for him.

In 1939, T.S. Eliot published a book of fanciful poems about cats called “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”  It became the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats,” one of the longest running shows in Broadway history.  The first poem, The Naming of Cats, explains that cats have three names: a sensible, everyday name that’s common; a more dignified and particular name for fancy occasions; and the name that only the cat knows, a singularly meaningful name that no one else will know.  The same might go for dogs, I think.  And Yoda might well be just his first name.

I wonder if the same might be said of people.

You’ve got an everyday name others might know you by.  It might be sensible or a little fancier, but it’s the name were given.  Sometimes names are chosen because they mean something or they’re a family name or parents just liked the sound of it.  But it’s the name on your driver’s license and your tax return and it’s how you’re known.

But you might also be known by what you do.  Robin the Minister, for example, so-and-so the farmer or the baker or the doctor.  It’s one of the first questions we ask when we want to get to know someone, isn’t it?  What do you do?

But knowing a person’s name and occupation won’t really tell us who they truly are.  We’d need to get to know them by that third name, that one that no one but you yourself know because it so clearly describes the real you.  Well, no one, maybe, but you and God.

When I wonder about how we come from God and return to God, I wonder also if there isn’t a “name” that God knows us by, one that’s the truest form of who we are.  Maybe that’s what’s happening when Jesus meets Simon for the first time.

In John’s gospel, Jesus meets his first disciples when John the Baptist tells a couple of his own disciples that Jesus is the one he’s been talking about (John 1:29-42).  They go and meet Jesus and follow him around to see what he’s doing.  One, Andrew, brings his brother Simon.  When Jesus meets him for the first time, he tells him he won’t be called Simon, but Peter, which means “rock.”  No explanation, just hi, you’re Peter.

I don’t know for sure, but I doubt Peter looked like Dwayne Johnson.  I doubt he was “stone-faced” when he met Jesus.  Maybe he was unattractive, but that certainly wouldn’t be worth a mention.  No, maybe Jesus already knew who he was talking to and could see the potential and possibility in him.  Peter’s journey was a rocky road, as it were, but he’s ultimately revealed to be worthy of Jesus’ faith in him.  Simon, the Fisherman, Peter.

Ever wonder what your third name might be?  That one that describes the truest you, the depth of your spirit and the heart of your soul.  It’s worth some thought.  Who are you, really?