Insight is one trait that sets humans apart from the rest of God’s creation. We have the ability to ponder and reflect, to connect the why to the how in our thinking and speaking and behaving. This insight, however, is not perfect. Try as we may, there are layers within each of us yet unknown. Our insight is based on the best information we have at any given moment. We are mystery.
This is why I so appreciate dear ones who go along with me, offering me their insights into my whys. What they see is different, coming from a different angle. They see things in me that I willfully ignore or downplay, things I wish to be true—even things I wish were not. Their gentle offerings prod me to consider who I am, and even more important, who I am becoming.
Such thoughts have been with me since reading the first three chapters of Karen Swallow Prior’s Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me for The High Calling book club. In these opening chapters, she speaks of the power of words and names to speak life into us, to beckon us to grow into the person hidden from our own insight but seen by others.
“Like the old riddle of the chicken and the egg, the power of giving something its proper name, in turn, empowers it to become the name it is called; which comes first matters little, perhaps.” (42)
“The power of naming is a subset of the power of all language. God spoke the universe into existence and, in giving us the gift of language He gave us a lesser, but still magnificent, creative power in the ability to name: the power to communicate, to make order out of chaos, to tell stories, and to shape our own lives and the lives of others.” (40–41)
Words are powerful to give life—and death. Prior offers several accounts from her childhood that typifies this truth. One example is the way kids in her elementary school put a twist on the old “you’ve got cooties” accusation, saying instead, “You’ve got the Cotters”—the Cotters were the outcast kids, the ones that were rough around the edges. (50) To be named as one of them was social disgrace. This sort of naming carries a weight. I wonder if the Cotter kids were ever able to get out from under it or if it is weighing upon them even today?
The way we speak, the words we choose, all this flows from the heart. What we think of ourselves, others, and the world will shape the words and names that tumble off our tongues. Our insight, however jaded, will influence our speech.
As Christians, knowing who we are (the Redeemed) and whose we are (God’s Beloved) changes the trajectory of our thoughts, words, actions. I take great hope in the promise that one day, when we see Jesus face to face, He will give each of His Beloved a new name: “I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17, ESV). What will that name be? It is mystery, an insight that I do not yet know—but Jesus does. And I want to grow into that name a little more each day.
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