I was passing the construction site of a high-rise office building the other day when I saw her name. "MICHELLE" was written in big white block letters about three feet high. The graffiti-style signature took up half of what would probably be about the 15th floor.
How did she do that? I wondered. How did Michelle get into the construction site in the first place? There were barbed wire fences and "Keep Out" signs all the way around. And then, given that she got in, how did she get up? The only mode of transportation I could see was a crane. Finally, how did she manage to write her name in such a way that I could read it from the ground? She'd had to have hung over the edge and written the letters upside down!
I was in awe. Here was a girl whose name must really have mattered to her. A lot!
Of course, it was very likely one of Michelle's friends at the work site who accomplished this tremendous gymnastic feat, and not Michelle herself. In fact, since that day, I've seen other names on those red steel girders, both male and female, and even further up. But Michelle and her name got me to thinking. Why do names matter to us so much?
Some of the biggest social and political issues in the world today evolve around the issue of a name. Sometimes an entire country will change its name in order not to be identified with the corrupt or unjust government that once ruled there. And, on a smaller scale, the last few decades have seen more and more married women keeping - or taking back - their maiden names.
But even when it's easy to effect these kinds of name changes, the real issue - that of our true, spiritual identity - still remains to be addressed.
The Holy Scriptures often direct us to praise the name of God, often as a collective activity. In one place, for instance, the Psalmist said, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together" (Ps. 34:3). During those occasions in my life when I may have felt that my name, or identity, wasn't being fully appreciated - or perhaps even that it was being denigrated - I've found biblical exhortations such as this one in Psalms helpful, because they have turned me away from my limited sense of myself to the very source of my identity - to the Holy One who identified Himself to Moses as "I AM" (see Ex. 3:14).
The Bible also implies that as we turn our thought toward the worship of God, and as we get to know the Holy One better, our own identities will become clearer to us. We can expect to find ourselves transformed. The book of Isaiah promises: "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God" (62:2, 3).
The woman who founded this newspaper was known by several different names at various points in her long and productive life. Her parents named her Mary Morse Baker. As time went on, she was married, widowed, married, divorced, and married again, and she took the names of three different husbands. In fact, by the time of her passing, she had published her best-loved book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," under several different names. Yet, during all these years, she was learning more about her spiritual identity as the perfect individual of God's creating. And she was helping other people learn more about their own spiritual identities as well. She wrote in this book, "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (pg. 332). The fact that our Father-Mother God has this "tender relationship" with each of us means that He/She knows our names.
God knows your name, Michelle. And your sister's and your brother's names. And also mine.
Notwithstanding in this
rejoice not, that the spirits are
subject unto you; but rather
rejoice, because your names
are written in heaven.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society