Earlier this week I was having coffee with a friend. As I was waiting in line, I put my hand in the pocket of my trusty fleece. I wear this coat all the time and I practically lived in it while I was in Africa. While waiting for my decaf pumpkin spice latte, I felt something soft and crumpled in my pocket.
I pulled it out, unfolded it, and my face broke into a smile. Somehow, this little piece of paper with the child’s scribbling managed to survive a trans-atlantic flight, several washings, and numerous locations. Instantly my heart ached for the moment when I heard her say, “I want to tell you my name.”
She wrote out her full name in English for me. I then had her say it slowly, so I could spell it phonetically. I still remember her huge smile and her shy eyes as she whispered this secret. She knew the most precious thing she could give me was the gift of her name. And I knew the most precious thing I could give her was to call her by name.
Switch locations to the young adults ministry that I’m currently running in Colorado. Earlier this year I greeted one of the more socially awkward folks by name and instantly they exclaimed, “you know my name?!” I felt surprise, humility, and shame that this person was so shocked that I would remember their name. Because even in my middle America culture, they felt like they weren’t worthy to have their name remembered.
What is it about our names that we long to hear? There is something truly delightful when I’ve met someone briefly before and they remember my name the second time we meet. I try to make a point to remember the names of people I’ve met but often fail miserably. As these two scenarios were stirring in my heart I felt the LORD’s prompting.
Do you know my name, beloved? Do you know all my names? My names represent who I am. You need to know my names to know all the ways I love and care for you.
And your name, your name is my favorite name. Your name delights me everytime I hear or speak it. I love your name, precious one.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how much Africa taught me about the LORD’s heart for me.