Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Much thought has given to naming things in our house. We carefully selected the names of our three dogs. Fisher was named in honor of Eric's deep and abiding love for fly-fishing, Cota was named after Ed Cota, a Carolina pointguard from back in the day, and Lily was chosen because that dog was kind of hideous so we were trying to soften up the rough edges with a really girly name. It didn't work. The first dog died after he got out one day and ate a piece of wire that perforated his bowels. So sad. But to his credit, he first drug home two thirds of a Digornio pizza and a loaf of bread he found in someone's trash can and ate it on our couch. We found the evidence of his little afternoon antics when we came home that evening and trust me, the humor of that was not lost on me. But that's neither here nor there. When we moved into our current home the "naming" continued. Eric wanted to be sure we were on the same page as to what we called each room so that when we shouted across the house, "honey, have you seen the diaper creme and my debit card?" that we would know what the other one meant when they responded, "I think I saw them behind the stained couch in the family room." And of course, much thought was given to the naming of our children. Harper's middle name, for example, is Maryl, which is a hybrid of our mother's names - Martha and Cheryl. It was either that or Chertha. I think we made the right choice. And Baker's full name is Charles Baker, named after his daddy, Charles Eric, and after Pastor Lewis Baker, who performed our wedding and was a pivotal figure in the life of Eric's family. Other contenders for Harper were Parker and Sutton, and if it had been up to me, Baker would have been named Maclean, or "Mac" for short. Now, of course, I cannot imagine them being named anything else. They are Harper and Baker. End of story.
I'm finding the older I get the worse I am at remembering names. This is not good. Particularly as a Young Life leader. It's my job to remember kid's names. To call them by their names. To not just say, "Hey there, freshmen girl with the ombre' hair," but to actually be able to say, "Hey, Sarah, how are you?" Literally every time I go to the high school lately I have to pull aside one or two girls who I know well and we huddle up and I say, "Okay, don't look now, but across my left shoulder is a girl in a red shirt next to a guy in an itchy-looking poncho. What's her name? I think it's either Casey or Cassie." They then inform me her name is neither Casey or Cassie, but Sam. Okay, cool. Sam. Got it. Good to know. I could have asked the girl myself but there's a window of time in which it's okay to ask someone their name again and once that window closes you just look like a total jerk asking again. I sometimes use this little trick - I'll ask a girl how they spell their name so I can put it in my phone. This works great when their name is Caitlin or something because there's lots of ways to spell that name these days. It doesn't work so well when their name is, well, Sam. Then you just look like a jerk. A jerk named Kristin. Not quite sure how I'm going to rememdy this little memory issue but I've got to think of something. Because names matter. They really do.
In our fast-paced culture it's not too often that we actually hear our own names spoken. Seriously, think about it. We text a lot, so we are definitely not HEARING our names said in that scenario. If we see folks in person we usually offer a quick, "hey, how are you?!" We call each other girl, brother, friend, pretty lady, hot stuff, whatever. But we rarely say each other's names. And I have to say, I like hearing someone say my name. I particularly love when Eric says my name. Well, unless it begins the sentence, "Kristin, why is Baker smearing a popsicle in the TV?" But other times, when he addresses me by name, tenderly, I come undone. It lets me know he sees me. I mean, really sees me. We spend the day tag teaming the kids, cutting crusts off of peanut butter sandwhiches, meeting folks for lunch, running to the gym, checking off our to-do lists and we do so as wife, husband, mother, father, friend, Young Life staff, or whatever the situation calls for. But in that moment, when he says my name, I am reminded that I have an identity that transcends all of those. It reminds me that I have value completely independent from what I am able to do. And gosh I have GOT to be reminded of that. To rest, for just a fleeting moment, in my identity as Kristin, redeemed and rescued, child of Abba, Father. If I'm not hunkering down in this particular sense of self-worth then all of my other roles in life are in jeopardy. It's ironic really. If I identify myself primarily as a mother, for example, I will inevitably handicap my ability to love my children well. I suddenly begin to view them in relationship to my own satisfaction. So when they disobey or embarass me in public it feels personal. It feels like failure. Or worse, when we find other mothers are doing things differently with their kids we begin to panic, afraid that perhaps we've been doing it wrong and our kids won't turn out to be the perfect humans we were so sure they were going to be. And so, instead of considering that maybe there are lots of ways to do the right thing, we judge them. We put them on the shelf with all the other things that challenge our fragile identities. It's exhausting, really. To maintain an identity based on what you can do and how well you do it. Whether it's in your job, your friendships, your appearance, your income, whatever, it's exhausting. It makes every interaction, every success, every failure, feel so much more paramount than it really is.
Scripture talks a lot about "upright living." And it always makes me uneasy. I just have so many negative connotations associated with this image - images of strict morality, rigid thinking, and dry religion. Now, the problem lies with me. Not with the Word. I understand that. I bring my own set of baggage to the table when I read the Bible, we all do. And I'll spend the rest of my life letting that baggage go until I can see the Word with total clarity, as it really is and not as I perceive it to be based on my experiences or feelings. I wonder, though, if this whole notion of "upright living" has a lot to do with righting our sense of self. Remember those old V8 commercials where the actors would seemingly walk at an angle, unable to stand upright until they drank their V8? Their whole being was askew because it lacked the necessary nutrients found in this wonder drink. I think this is awfully close to how I must look to God when I am defining myself by anything other than His love for me. He sees me chasing mirages of success and happiness until I fall flat in the dust, thirsty and tired. And then He enters in. He calls me by name. He takes me by the shoulders and puts me on my feet and says, "Stand up straight, Kristin. Stand up and look me in my eyes and be confident in this: I have won you back to myself so that you will know beyond any doubt that you are worth it to me. You are my child worth saving, my beauty worth redeeming. Be defined by nothing else."
So I hope the next time I go to the high school I remember Sam's name. I hope that the next time I see you I remember to call you by name. I hope tomorrow morning I'll remember to say my husband and children's names with a tenderness that lets them know I am so very glad that they are mine. I hope that when that moment comes, and come it will, when I am face to face with my false self, my forgetful self, the one that searches in vain for worth in what I am to others rather than who I am to Him, that I would listen hard to to hear his voice, calling me. And calling me by name.