What’s in a name?

Rascal, learning his name
Rascal, learning his name

An amazing thing happened today. I was headed out of the kitchen this morning, coffee in hand, when Michael was bringing the dogs in from their morning constitutional in the backyard. The older dogs bolt in, pawing at my legs, happy to see me for the first time this morning. And little Rascal, the puppy not more than 3 months old, runs in, clumsily trying to keep up. Michael calls him to follow, “Rascal, come on, this way.” The pup, wandering around the living room, still dealing with his youthful attention deficit, looks up from the latest object of curiosity, and tears after Michael as fast as his little legs will carry him.

It was that look, that lifting of the head when he heard his name, that struck me as so amazing. You could almost see the mental processes in action. Those two syllables, that unique combination of sounds, slowly absorb into his brain: “That’s me, this is who I am”. And little by little – over a surprisingly short period of time – he completely identifies with that word. “I am Rascal.” Now, whenever Michael or I call out that name, his ears perk up, he turns his head, and most of the time he comes to us; he runs to the sound of his name. The whole process of forming his identity is founded on this one basic recognition of his name, that that is who he is. And from this point on, for the rest of his life, his actions, his future behavior and the expectations he’ll conform to, will be influenced and directed by that label.

Are we any different? From the time we are children, we hear words, names, describing us. And like Rascal, over a period of time (not so long), we begin to identify with them: that is who we are. Depending on what those words were and who spoke them, our lives begin to be directed, our paths become set.

What would our lives be like if we were called what God calls us, if our identities were wrapped around his view of us? What could our lives be like if we started calling ourselves by those names?  — Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Royal Priest.  Holy One.  Apple of God’s Eye.  Beloved of the Master of the Universe.  Joint-Heir with Christ Jesus.  Blessed One.  Successful.  Excellent of Spirit.  Good Worker.  Trustworthy.  Compassionate One.  Walking Love.  Peace Under Any Circumstance.  Grace Under Fire.  Stress-Free.  Channel of God’s Power.  Righteous.  Blood-Bought.  Future Promise.  Light of the World.  Salt in the Workplace.  Acceptable in God’s Sight.  Good Neighbor.  Healer.  Speaker of Kind Words.  Faithful Steward.  Encourager.  Delight of the Poor.  Relationship Builder.  Loyal Friend.  Joyful.  Confident in the Lord.  Forgiver.  Reconciler.  …  You fill in the rest.

If we’re to change our world and live an extraordinary life, we need to dump the old names, the old descriptions, and to stop answering to them. Like a puppy absorbing his identity, we need to retrain ourselves to conform to a new image, new names. And no matter what situation we are in at any given moment, we need to see ourselves as God sees us. We need to perk up our ears, lift our heads, and run to that new name. “Hey, that’s me.”

Just something to consider …

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Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Gen 2:19)

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