Recently, as I was reading the Well Spring trilogy by James Rubart (given to me by a particularly thoughtful and kind client of mine), I was reminded of the spiritual power of the names we take on along this journey of life. Some are given to us. Some we place upon ourselves. Some are kind. Some are cruel. Some are silly. But if we hold on to them with even the smallest part of our hearts, they take on a spiritual power in our lives and will come to shape our identity and our impact.
In response to the chapter about name significance, I decided to prayerfully review any and all names/nicknames I could ever remember carrying throughout my life. Most struck me as worth discarding, but I remembered one that stood out as a particularly frustrating chapter in my life, because I HATED that a family member insisted on calling me something for years – simply because it pushed my buttons and agitated me. I am grateful to have already had the opportunity to lay this to rest with this family member years ago, but back in my childhood the dynamics of this obnoxious nickname game always left me feeling discouraged, belittled, and helpless. As I recalled those days, I thanked God for moving me past it, and setting me free from any long-lasting negative impact. And then it hit me…
For years, I have done this same thing to my own son! I haven’t done it in quite the same way. I haven’t stuck one particularly obnoxious nickname on my son, despite his protestations. But what I have done is frequently blurted out a silly nickname of the moment/day/week, based on whatever movie, TV show, song, stuffed animal, etc is at hand. Just to get a rise out of him. It wasn’t that I was picking on him, or being mean, or anything like that. I was just having fun with him. Or so I had told myself for a long time. The Holy Spirit told me otherwise. I can always count on Him to tell me the Truth.
That night, as I lay down with my eleven year old son at bedtime, I told him I wanted to talk to him about something serious. Of course, his first concern was what kind of trouble he was in. I assured him I was the one who had been out of line. I told him the story of my childhood nickname, and how it made me feel. I then told him God had helped me see how I had been doing the same thing to him for a long time. I’m not sure how I expected him to react. I guess I figured he’d say something like, “Thanks, Dad,” or “No big deal, Dad,” or maybe even, “Yeah, that bugs me, too.” Whatever I expected, it was nothing like the conviction that came when he shot this bullet straight back at my heart…
“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to hear you say that!” That is actually what came out of his mouth. WOW! Well, I managed to keep from falling apart on the spot. Much more importantly, I promised him I would stop this behavior, and show him more respect and love in this arena from now on. We agreed his names would be limited to “Shep,” “Son,” and he also liked “Tiger” (I told him how that was what I called him for the first few weeks of his life, but somehow it seemed like it just didn’t stick). I am pleased to report I have done much better, and he has been quick to remind me when I forget and slip into the old habit. I want him to know I see him and believe in him for who he is and Whose he is, and don’t want him saddled with foolish or harmful nicknames.
Do you have any names you have been carrying that are dragging you down? Hand them over to God, and ask Him to take them away from you for good. You don’t have to accept them anymore! And what about the conviction that hit me? Have you been calling someone by a name that tears them down, rather than builds them up? It’s time to stop. And say you’re sorry, and want only good for them from now on. Give it a try. Lighten your load. And theirs. Walking in our true identity given us by our Father is so much greater than wallowing in the counterfeit identities that ultimately come from our Enemy.