Thursday, April 18, 2013

Naming

One of my own favorite things as a kid, and into college even, was choosing a title for a paper.  I love a catchy name.  Puns and ridiculousness welcome.  I would name very serious paper with a wacky title.  I'm sure my professors loved that...

And at this stage of life, many of my friends are having babies.  The question is always, "What will the name be?" It's a HUGE decision!  You can't name a baby the same thing your friend did, or give them the name of your creepy third grade teacher, or the name of your husband's ex-girlfriend!  You can't pick a name that's too popular...you can't pick a name that's too strange...(try finding names that go with Sabelhaus.  Abel was out right away.)

Have you ever been called a name that stung long after it was thrown at you?  Loser. Fat. Ugly. Worthless. Why do we obsess with names?  Why do they hold so much meaning?

For some reason, I've been reading books that address this theme of naming.  (Not name it and claim it prosperity theology....no, no, no. Run away.)  I'm working through The Genesis Trilogy by Madeline L'Engle and I just finished One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. How I love these women! Both share a beautiful use of the English language. They both tend farms and children and the mind.  Well, I'm no farmer. (I do some yard work and love the outdoors.)  But I most definitely am a mom and a thinker.  There's so many great people in this world I admire, but with these women I find a certain kinship.  Like they would understand my brain and heart more than most.  And they both find "naming" to be essential to a joyous relationship between God and the people he created.

 From Madeleine L'Engle's And It Was Good:
"When Adam named the animals he made them real. My dog is named Timothy and my cat is named Titus.  Farmers do not let their children name the animals who are going to be slaughtered or put in the pot.  It is not easy to eat a ham you have known as Wilbur or a chicken called Flossy.  When we respond to our names, or call someone else by name, it is already the beginning of a community expressing the image of God.  To call someone by name is an act of prayer.  We may abuse our names, and our prayer, but without names we are not human. And Adam and Eve, no matter what else they were, were human.  At first there was nothing but joy, joy in being created, and in worshipping the God who had created them. And wonder: wonder at sunrises and starfish and dolphin and even dandelions....Were Adam and Eve beginning to take the image of God in themselves and loveliness of Eden for granted?  Is that why they fell for Satan's temptations?  When we take things for granted, then what we have is not enough, and we are rendered vulnerable to the wiles of the tempter."

From Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts:
"Naming is Edenic. I name gifts and go back to the Garden and God in the beginning who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence.  This naming is how the first emptiness of space fills: the naming of light and land and sky. This first man's first task is to name.  Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, indefinable mass.  I am seeing it too... naming offers the gift of recognition.  When I name moments-string out laundry and name-pray, thank You, Lord, for bedsheets in billowing winds, for fluff of sparrow landing on line, sun winter warm, and one last leaf still hanging in the orchard- I am Adam and I discover my meaning and God's, and to name is to learn the language of Paradise.  This naming work never ends for all the children of Adam.  Naming to find an identity, our identity, God's."

Aren't those passages so very, very similar?  I picked up these two books a week apart without any knowledge that some of the content would overlap.  And I received a strong message that when we "forget" to physically put pen to paper or voice to speech or instrument to song or brush to painting or feet to dance or whatever part of you can express thanks in a tangible way...we choose to ignore God's innumerable blessings.  We focus on ourselves.  It is blatantly clear that by ourselves, humans are found lacking.  We complain and compare. We feed the monsters of bitterness and jealousy.  And we simultaneously push away God who is the only way to make us complete. Creativity, worship, gratitude- they all put a right perspective on who we are and how great God is.  Ann Voskamp observed how impossible it is to be joyless while you are in the act of giving thanks.  So she proposes that we "name" or write down all the gifts God has given us.  All of them.  If you want to know more, visit her website at http://onethousandgifts.com/.  There's much more to the book, and I won't spoil it for you.  But I love the simple and practical application of just putting into words what God gives us each day. 

Reminds me of the old song,"Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings see what God has done."  Or "every blessing you pour out I turn back to praise."  Or what we're studying in our sermon series right now at church: "Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits (Psalm 103:1-2)."  We sing it at church and read it in the Bible, but do we apply it?  Do we really want joy, peace, and to find out that ourselves and our complaints are pretty small potatoes most of the time?

So I attempt to name the things for which I am thankful.  I practice being thankful on good days and the not so good.  I hung poster board by the back door.  I grab a marker when I think of something and pause to write it down.  By God's grace we do not receive what we deserve- eternal separation from God. Instead, we receive...
Magnolia petals
Son's giggles
Daughter's crazy dances
Smell of coffee beans
And on...and on...

A good friend put this on facebook the other day.  (He wants to credit it to Chris Rice since he was listening to a song of his at the time...but he's a pretty wise man himself.) "Peace comes when we realize: how small we are, how big God is and just how much He really loves us."  I think practicing gratitude is the perfect start to this realization process and this path to peace.






1 comment:

Rachael Phillips said...

Yes, yes, I even name my plants :-) I call Psalm 103 my life chapter. LOVE Madeleine L'Engle and need to read Ann Voskamp.

And on this chilly, Wuthering-Heights-type day, I'll name my blessings, including you :-)