Today’s Blog was inspired by a friend of mine’s blog at www.jessicalagrone.com
Stick and string strapped over my bare back perched on my bare feet. Poised at 4 feet tall, I was the greatest toe headed five year old Indian the world had ever seen. With a collection of caterpillars, locusts shells, and armed with invisible arrows, I was set for adventure. Our suburban neighborhood was transformed into a western landscape.
Playing Cowboys and Indians was a childhood staple when I was growing up. There was never a fixed enemy and I never saw a problem with having cowboys and indians fighting on the same side. The American Indian held my fascination. There was a mystery and nobility about them that matched the mystic of the mountains that often served as their backdrop. For this little boy, they were the Yoda before there was a Yoda.
One can only imagine my delight in discovering that I was named after a Paiute Indian, a student my parents taught while living in a remote town in Nevada. My imagination was filled with rich images and pride that I had some kind of connection with a real “Indian”. What would it be like to meet this man? I would eventually have that meeting.
Twenty years old, long blonde hair, pierced ears, armed with a Chevy Corsica and torn baggy jeans, I headed out West for a kind of pilgrimage. Part of my four month journey was spent working on a cattle ranch in Nevada where my parents had once taught school. I immediately asked if Cory “A” still lived in the area. With raised eyebrows I was told yes.
I eventually ran into Cory “A” while at one of the local rodeos (an event almost as common there as a pick up basketball game is here). It was not Cory “A’s” best day. He was passed out drunk in a horse stall. Talk about an underwhelming first encounter with your namesake.
Like many products and institutions, people are often branded and labeled early on in life. Valid or not, those brands can make us or break us. Nicknames, harsh words, accolades, can all seep into our self image and determine the choices we make in this life. The question every person must face is, “will I define my name or will my name define me?”
As disappointing as it was to see someone I was named after living as a drunk, I was detached enough to know that he didn’t have destiny ownership of how my name was to be lived out. But how many of us are emotionally entrenched with the brands we are given? Perhaps you are told that you are “just like your father” and your father is never home with his family and generally living pursuit that degrade and not uplift those around him. There are countless number of children who give in to that label and decide that this must be the life they are supposed to live. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will maim and destroy me.
The good news is that you do not have to live the legacy of the name you are given. The good news is that there is a deeper rooted identity granted and graphed into your makeup. It is the identity of the image of God. Sure, that a big image to live up to, but because God created us he has also equipped us to live it. The promises we are given through Jesus Christ are ones of abundant life, joy, peace, freedom. These are aspects of the image of God we are given access to simply by living out of the name we are given. The amazing thing is that it is not a new name God gives us, but our first name.
A name helps us set goals in our life. Be it a name we write on a paper or one we write in our heart, what we perceive as our identity matters. In Spanish my name sounds like the verb “he runs” which I suppose is as close is I’ll ever be to having a name like Rerun from “What’s Happening”. Thankfully, a friend in college discovered that my name has a Gaelic root. It means, “dweller by the water”. I decided then that that was who I wanted to be. I wanted to be one who dwells by the living water of Jesus Christ.
I later met Cory “A” when he was sober. He was very nice and seemed humbled and surprised that he impressed someone enough that their kid would share a name. Perhaps he began to see that there was an alternate story for him to live, an image and name that was positive and one that was deeply rooted within. I saw a spark of recognition in him that day, a recognition that he was more than the image of “drunk” that he portrayed. Perhaps he would see who my parents saw when he was younger, or even better, the image God has called him to be today.
The name of life, the name of the image of God is not just our name; it is our calling. The apostle Paul tells us to live a life worthy of our calling. What’s in a name? When it comes to being defined by God, everything. It means joy, peace, wholeness, abundant life. This name is our birthright, it is our inheritence. Will we be bold enough to live out our calling? What’s your name going to be?