Breaking Up Was One of the Best Things to Ever Happen to Me


A couple of friends on social media have posted recently about the difficulties they’re having after breaking up with their boyfriends. I can empathize. That emotional vortex can tear you apart for a few weeks and make you feel like your whole life is destroyed. But, for me, it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Relationships are wonderful things. We humans seem to crave them. We can feel isolated, lonely, and incomplete without them, as if our lives have little or no meaning unless someone else is there sharing it with us.  And there’s good reason for that. We are by nature social beings. (Most of us, that is. There are always those rare birds who thrive on being unattached.) I think it’s built into our DNA — the only thing recorded in the Genesis creation story that God said was not good was that man should be alone.

But what happens when those relationships end? For whatever reason — irreconcilable differences, death, infidelity, or simply growing in different directions — the sudden absence of someone who up till that moment played a significant role in your life, in your identity, can leave you reeling. You have to begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild yourself, rebuild your life.  And that can be a wonderful thing. A gift. An awe-inspiring blessing. It was for me.

We’d been together for 15 years. It was a rocky relationship, full of its ups and downs. Emotional highs, heights of passion, random warm moments, holidays, birthdays. Arguments, shouting matches, feeling completely misunderstood or neglected, … holidays, birthdays. Yeah, all of it. But in the final analysis, we weren’t happy. Not that we expected each other to make us happy — we both knew happiness was our own responsibility. But when the chemistry of two radically different personalities creates more negative reaction than positive, it’s time to reconsider the relationship. And we did. And we mutually agreed to end it.

The separation didn’t happen overnight. We discussed who’d get what, who’d move out, who’d stay, which dogs would go with whom. And we allowed time for that to happen. I kept the house (since I was the main bread-winner and he couldn’t have afforded to keep it), and he made plans to move across state to be closer to his family. And I itched almost every day, waiting for everything to fall into place so he could be gone.

When the day finally came, we packed up a U-Haul truck and moved him out. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Literally. It felt like I could breathe again.

BreakingUp2The first thing I did was rearrange the furniture. I was going to make the house “mine.” Then came all the other little changes. The decisions. I decided to eat better, to cook more, with more organics and meat that was humanely raised — and even for my dogs to eat better.  I decided to drink better quality coffee. To live more earth-friendly. To improve my social life. Dating — sure. (The whole world had evolved since the last time I’d dated. AOL was the thing back then. My friends had to clue me in about Adam4Adam, OkCupid, Match, and the host of phone apps available to help meet new people.) But also simply spending more time with my friends, going out to dinner, theater, movies … just rebuilding my life without him in it.  (I wrote about some of this back in the early days of my new-found singleness in “BYOB – Gay and Single (Again) After 40.”)

And this one word kept going through my head. “Rediscovery.” I wasn’t just “re-inventing” my life. I was rediscovering myself, who I was, digging back up those aspects and activities I used to love that had somehow become buried over the years together. Things he didn’t like to do. Parts of my personality that got overshadowed by the “us” of being with him. I rediscovered what it was like to be “Steve.”

I even stuck an index card on my refrigerator to remind me every morning —

“Create a life for yourself
that reflects your values,
builds on your gifts,
fulfills your purpose,
and satisfies your soul.”

The power of those words burrowed deep into my soul. “Create a life for yourself…”  It was an active process, not something I just sat back and let unfold. I spent time re-evaluating just what were my values, my gifts, my purpose? What satisfies my soul? I had the chance to re-create my life. I had that power. It was like a rebirth.

Oh, and yes, I did jump into the dating game. I was online every day, checking my apps multiple times during the day. Going on coffee dates (the safest thing for first dates, I discovered), getting to know different guys. There were months of feeling almost desperate: “I gotta find somebody. I wanna be married again.” I got emotionally attached to a couple of guys, even knowing there was no real long-term possibilities there. Got my heart broken once or twice. But gradually, as the clouds of desperation slowly faded from my mind, I woke up one morning realizing that I actually liked being single. I enjoyed my freedom. I loved the fact that I could meet someone, spend time with them, but go home afterwards to my own place, my home, my refuge, my dogs. And be okay unwinding on the couch, grabbing some movie off Netflix. By myself. Without having to worry about what someone else wanted to do.

I began to love myself again — and to like myself.  Whoever the guy was who’d eventually play a significant role in my life again, he’d have a pretty tough act to follow. He’d have to treat me and love me better than I loved myself. I wasn’t gonna lower my standards.

It’s been 4 years now. I’ve found someone who doesn’t trigger my red flags, who doesn’t irritate me (most of the time), who treats me with great respect, who has a depth of character and integrity that is a “must have” for me, and who has a life already established for himself. He’s good for my soul.

But more important than that. I’m happy. I wake up in the morning, grab my first cup of coffee of the day, and gather my thoughts. I pray. And I thank God for this good life. I think about the things I’m grateful for, the things I’m relieved about, excited and expectant about. The future. The present. The simplicity of things. A deeper spirituality. And the second chance at building my life.

The breakup gave me that chance. I got to re-think, re-define, re-discover who I was, and re-introduce elements of life that bring me joy and peace. Even my friends have commented on the change. I’m a better person now than I was before, and my life is richer. That break up with my ex was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

A version of Stephen’s post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.
Photo credits: Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello, cc; “Bachelor Pad,” crystalsquare apts, cc.

LGBT Evolution: We don’t need the Castro anymore

Welcome_SanFranciscoMy boyfriend and I just got back from a trip to San Francisco. If you’ve never been, you need to put it on your Bucket List because it’s a beautiful city — and yeah, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of those “must sees” of modern times, kind of one of the modern 7 Wonders of the World. The art and architecture of the city is amazing — we were stopping every couple of streets just to snap photos of the buildings.

We hit all the touristy places, of course: the Port of San Francisco and the Embarcadero, Chinatown, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf … and that place that was gay Mecca for so long, the Castro district. We walked everywhere, just to absorb the city. Miles and miles of hills, up and down. And restaurants, amazing food. (Yeah, we didn’t realize that food would end up being our major expenditure there.) It was Jake’s first time to the city, and my first time back in almost 20 years.

It’s always a bit nostalgic returning to a historic scene, a place loaded with memories and iconic images. San Francisco is such a place. And part of that nostalgia is a bit of sadness over how things have changed over the years. The Castro brought that point to light immediately.

Twenty years ago, I was a grad student visiting the city for my first time. I was still in the closet (mostly), so it was like a trip to the motherland, the safe-haven for gay and lesbian kids seeking refuge from the oppressive environments of small town Kansas … or even upstate New York. The hippy days of Haight-Ashbury were long gone, even by then, but the Castro was still buzzing with gay couples, gay restaurants, gay bookstores, gay clubs. It was a place you could feel “home,” you could be safe … you were among “your own people.” Same-sex marriage was still a fantasy then. We never imagined it would happen in our lifetimes. Being gay in the military — even before the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — was a risky venture. Movies about people like Sergeant Matlovich, who came out, and was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged, still haunted us. We weren’t too far removed from the days of Anita Bryant, and the rages of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. AIDS was still a plague that ravaged men and women, with little hope in sight. It was a death sentence. So places like San Francisco were little paradises where people could escape the stress and pressures of hiding in real life, where we could let our hair down, hold hands, and just be.

CastroBut the Castro is a different place now. It’s not much more colorful than any other “cute” part of town. Sure, there are rainbow flags flying everywhere — even the crosswalks are rainbow painted. And yeah, there are drag clubs if you like that kind of nightlife. But for the most part, it’s just a cute little touristy spot, full of restaurants. The bookstores have gone the way of most bookstores these days … extinct, victims of Amazon and the internet. Even the “GLBT Museum” is not much more than two small rooms with photos of a few famous people, like José Sarria and Harvey Milk. Nothing shocking about the place. It’s completely family-friendly — if you don’t count the random homeless people spewing occasional vulgarities.

And it saddened me a little. But this is what evolution looks like.

LGBT men and women fought for this. For integration. For acceptance. For the day when we wouldn’t have to crowd together in comfortable ghettos, where we could live among everyone else, and where straight people would feel just as free and comfortable around us. They dreamed of the day when a lesbian couple could walk down the street pushing a stroller with their child in it, or two gay dads could hold hands while carrying their son on their shoulders. Where you could lean over the table at a restaurant and kiss your spouse in public without people making hateful comments or throwing something. They fought, they protested, they were beaten, some were even assassinated, for “equality” — for “normalcy.” And San Francisco now reflects that.

My boyfriend is younger than me. He lives completely “out,” and has since he was a teenager. His boss knows, his colleagues know, his students knows, his students’ parents know, his priest knows. He experienced rejection in the evangelical church he grew up in, but he doesn’t know how far we’ve come, how mind-blowingly, unimaginably far we’ve progressed. He won’t know the Castro as I once experienced it. And thank God for that.

As disappointed as I was by the change, I recognized that this is the natural outcome of all those fights for civil rights. It was what those drag queens at Stonewall fought the police for.

I have friends even here in Oklahoma City who bemoan the changes occuring in our community. We don’t have a big area like the Castro, or Greenwich Village, or Houston’s Montrose. We have a small stretch on 39th Street known as “the Strip” where there are a handful of clubs and a hotel. Gay Pride draws in thousands of people for the festivities, the music, the beer, the parade — a lot of young LGBT people, but also thousands of straight people who just want to have a good time. Families, kids. And some of my friends don’t like this. “We’ve lost our culture. We’re disappearing.” It’s a shock to our identity. But isn’t this exactly what we wanted? Marriage equality, civil rights, families, job protection … to be treated as if our sexual orientation made little difference except in whom we chose to love? This is evolution. This is progess.

I get it. I feel some of their pain. Probably like the early Christians felt when the persecution stopped and Christianity became a legal religion. They didn’t have to hide anymore, they could be who they were in public. It changed everything. Or like second-generation immigrants who want to move out of Chinatown and work on Wall Street. Or off the reservation and into the cities. Integration. There’s a schizophrenic struggle to retain part of our identity as unique, as special, and yet live the normal lives we’ve always wanted. Seeing straight people dance at our clubs, seeing kids at our Pride parades, seeing less and less of the blatant sexuality displayed at our festivals, as the focus of our lives turn from that to the mundane efforts of paying a mortgage and sending our kids to private schools. This is the price we pay. San Francisco’s Chinatown is mostly restaurants and souvenir shops targeted at tourists. Where are this generation’s Chinese-Americans? Not living there anymore. Where are this generation’s LGBTQ youth? On campuses, in big cities, even buying farms in small towns. Raising kids, paying taxes, worrying about who is elected President. They aren’t flocking to Greenwich Village or the Castro anymore. They don’t need to.

Someday — soon — our Pride parades won’t be much different than our St. Patrick’s Day parades (except maybe with a bit less beer). They will celebrate the diversity of our population. They will reflect our achievements, our progress in history, and give us a chance to wave our flags to celebrate who we are. But they won’t be needed. They won’t be essential to our survival. They’ll be like fireworks on the Fourth of July — something we commemorate, but not vital to our identity or existence anymore.

I’m still a little saddened by the loss of these iconic places, these bastions of LGBT culture. They’re more museums now, remembering what was, rather than being vital hubs of our community. All change is painful, but we don’t stop progress just because we want to stay in the past. And we don’t hold so tightly onto our past that we overlook how far we’ve come. We aren’t going backwards. We can’t afford to all move to San Francisco or New York and buy condos in our ghettos. The world has changed, and we are part of it.

Jake and I flew back to Oklahoma City, to our homes, our jobs, our friends and families, our churches. San Francisco was beautiful, was energizing, was even historic and nostalgic. But it’s good to be back home.

photo credit: photos by Steve Schmidt, cc.

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STEVE SCHMIDT serves as Teaching Pastor at Expressions.Today in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

He is editor of IMPACT Magazine, and blogs here on the Cafe Inspirado column. Plus you can find him making random comments about life on Facebook.


From the Dust Bowl to Your Destiny

camals“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran” (Gen 28:10).

What could be possibly one of the most boring verses in the entire Bible suddenly jumped out at me with such intensity and meaning, I just had to stop and stare at it for a while.

Jacob was a weasel. He was a trickster, somebody well-skilled in passive-aggressive behavior. He was a mama’s boy and a manipulator. He let people walk all over him. He was weak and wimpy. And I’m sure he was full of insecurities and self-doubts, and maybe even a little self-hatred. (Hey, kinda like a lot of us!) But he was also a man with a destiny. He had a role to fill in divine history, and God wasn’t gonna let a few personality flaws interfere with his ultimate plans.

So there he was, hanging out in Beersheba, a dusty little spot on the map, barren of life and luxury except for some scrub grass suitable only for livestock and a few wells his grandfather had dug. Not the kind of place to build a name for yourself. Not even the kind of place to build much of a life. But he wasn’t stopping there. He was on his way to Haran, a rich, exotic city sitting on the trade routes of civilization, looking for a wife and his future. Caravans carrying goods from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Persia to what is now Turkey passed through that city, and it was known for it’s gold, spices, and precious stones. He was going from the southern most outpost of fertile land to the excitement of the big city in the north. But it wasn’t the city that held the key to his destiny. It was the journey itself.

“When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night …”
For many of us on the journey to new life and purpose, we overlook this important aspect: sometimes you just gotta stop moving, and camp out for a while. Something was about to happen to Jacob — he was hours away from that famous vision of angels ascending and descending the ladder between earth and God, a new revelation of God and about himself — and if he’d forced himself beyond that resting spot, if he’d continued his journey through the night in a hurry to get where he was going, he would have missed it. Like him, most of us tend to be restless. We’re running ahead at full steam, trying to escape (or at least change) our current situation, and reach the next stage of life, something better and more meaningful. But if we don’t slow down, if we don’t take advantage of our current situation, if we don’t learn whatever it is we’re supposed to glean from the present experience, we won’t be ready for that next step. Sometimes we have to slow down enough to listen.  And for once, perhaps for the first time in his life, Jacob doesn’t blow the opportunity. He rests. And then God speaks.

“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.”
What’s missing here? Those of us who grew up in Sunday School can fill in the blanks. The title always goes “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But that hasn’t happened yet. Jacob already had some years and experience under his belt, but he hadn’t come fully into himself yet. He hadn’t realized his full identity, nor had he developed a satisfactory relationship with God. His faith was still with the God of his fathers — or to put in another way, it was his parents’ religion. He had yet to really make it his own. But it’s during this journey that all that changes. It’s in the desert, in the sand, in the middle of nowhere on his way to somewhere, that God becomes real to him. And his life is changed from that moment on. After this trip, the God of Abraham and Isaac becomes the God of Jacob.   A new relationship, a divine partnership, is born.  And when that happens, nothing remains the same.

“I will give you and your descendants the land … You will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you …”
It’s here, at this place of camping out, this place of quiet resting, at a break in the running, that Jacob gets the promise of the destiny he’s been looking for. God assures him that he will ultimately come into his own: he’ll inherit the land. But more than that, the purpose of his life is suddenly made clear: through him the whole earth will be blessed. It’s at this moment, at that rest-stop on the journey, that his life suddenly comes into focus. He is somebody. He has hope and a future. He is worth something.  All that scheming and manipulation, that striving for recognition and favor, the tricks and deceit, even his passive weakness, have not disqualified him from a purpose-filled and fulfilling life.  His mess-ups couldn’t shake the love and favor of God for him.

And on top of that, God promises to watch over him: “I am with you, and will watch over you wherever you go … I will never leave you …”  A new depth and quality to his life appeared out of nowhere in that moment.  It’s the breakthrough he needed in his quiet desperation, proof that his life had significance, that the world would be a better, more blessed place because of him.

His story continues, and a few chapters past this passage is another well-known event in his journey. It’s years later. He’s arrived in Haran, married the woman of his dreams (actually, got four women in the process), had eleven sons, and with God’s favor had become prosperous, despite his flawed character. And on one lonely night, still seeking to fill the void in his soul, he wrestles with a divine stranger till daybreak (Gen 32:24). Even though he’d achieved many of his goals — the love of a life-partner, a family of his own, the successful business — he’s still longing for deeper fulfillment. And he refuses to let the stranger go until he gets something from him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” But that’s exactly what the divine visitor came to do, and he gives Jacob a new name: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men.” That life of constant struggle — deep within himself, with others around him, his family, and with God — God uses as material to forge his new identity. Though his journey in life would continue on for many more years, that part of the search for identity was finally complete. He now knew who he was, and what he was all about.

And none of this would have happened if he’d stayed in the dust bowl of Beersheba, if he hadn’t left his father’s house in search of his destiny.

For many of us, this is the story of our lives.
We’re restless and wanting more. We feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled where we are right now, and we have this nagging feeling in our guts that “there has to be more than just this.” There is.  A lot more. Your job is not done; your life is not stalled out. You are not stuck in the mud, or in the rut of your day to day grind. For those wanting more, there is new purpose and greater significance; there is a coming into your true identity, becoming all you were meant to be; there’s a deeper relationship with God, and a more fulfilling destiny — something bigger than yourself, something that will impact the world around you.   But it all happens along the way. It happens in the journey.

So don’t stop pressing. Don’t stop seeking God for more. Take advantage of where you are now, learn what you can, grow in the place where you’re planted — you’re more likely to hear the revelation you need to get you to the next step when you’re still enough to listen.  But don’t think that’s where your journey ends. You may be in a dusty spot, hanging out by a few wells of water, surrounded by little more than herds of sheep and goats, but Haran is calling. The fullness of your God-designed identity and destiny still await you. And this is God’s promise to you, as well as to Jacob. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You’re gonna make it. You’re on the road from the dust bowl to your destiny.


Change begins with recognition

I woke up this morning feeling a little irritable.  No particular reason — I went to bed early enough, didn’t eat too late, and the day before was relatively calm and stress-free.  But there I was.  I grabbed my morning coffee and sat in my little study to pray.  At first I stayed quiet, hoping to hear some fresh whisper from God. But then my mind wandered to all the people around me who needed prayer (myself included), and the petitions began.  Well, no new revelation this morning.  And I was a little frustrated about that.  “Okay, Lord, here I am, making myself available, spending time with you, opening myself up, and …?”  Nada.  And then it occurred to me that I was not really hearing God, I wasn’t being sensitive, because I was allowing my frustration to put up a wall in my heart. It was blocking my receptivity.

Hmm.  Still with a bit of agitated assertiveness, I started asking God for the big things that were in my heart, the unrealistic dreams I knew he planted there. And I named them specifically.   (Hey, if you’re gonna ask, you might as well ask BIG.)   And I realized that the “no particular reason” was more about my subtle lingering frustration over feeling like my life is stuck in the mud, not moving fast enough toward those great dreams. 

As I started laying out these bold requests before God, the words percolated to the top of my thoughts: Change begins with a recognition of truth.  Truth in who you are, and what you want.

But it’s not the “hi, my name is Steve, and I’m an alcoholic” kind of truth.  It’s not an admission or recitation of my faults.  It’s an affirming of who I am that God made me to be, and embracing the core truths that make up my spiritual DNA. It’s the positives.  And I realized that those big-ticket requests I was making were actually in line with the identity he gave me: my dreams and desires fit neatly with the image he had shown me years earlier of who he wanted me to be. 
But those core truths don’t have be just grand visions of the future. The power of truth applies equally on a smaller, more down-to-earth level. They are truths about our present, about our day to day relationships with people around us.  You could say, for example, “I am a good husband, I love my wife, I take care of her; I provide for her, I make sure she has everything she needs.”  “I am a great worker, I do my job well, I am an asset to my company.”  “I am a good friend, God has placed me here, now, in these people’s lives, and I help them, I bless them, I care for them.” 

Of course, these should not be idle words, or mere wishful thinking.  It’s not hocus-pocus, or some magic formula. The truth should be rooted in God’s plan for you life — what he’s called you to do and who he’s called you to be — but it should also be reflected to some degree by your actions in reality. (If it isn’t, start acting the way you should!) You gotta have a leg to stand on.

As these concepts were racing through my head, I noticed my attitude was suddenly different.  I was calmer, more optomistic, and I felt stronger.  And later at work, I was more friendly with colleagues, less stressed, more confident in the projects before me.  But this isn’t simply a matter of me talking myself out of a bad mood into a better one.   It is the key to all kinds of change in life.  How you see yourself, and what you believe God’s plans for you are, will determine how you act. And how you act now will determine your future.

We’re all dissatisfied with some areas of our lives.  Some things need changing to get us in proper alignment with God’s divine design for us.  And we will be restless and unfulfilled until they are.  But all the necessary changes begin with a simple but profound recognition of who God made you to be and of the dreams and desires he placed inside you.  So if you don’t like who or where you are right now, start focusing on the original blueprint for your life.  Check your spiritual DNA.  See yourself as he sees you, and ask boldy for the dreams he’s given you.  That is who you really are — and that is what you really want.  God’s power begins to be released the moment you recognize the truth.  And that truth will change your life.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  (Prov 23:7)
You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

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 …


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)