Dedicated to my dear friends, T and J, and celebrating their new names
Two of my close friends, members of my Sunday School class, changed their names. And no, they didn’t get married. They just changed their names. The outer process, the legal process of changing their names was cumbersome, but not overly difficult. The inner process was harder, more introspective. It was a process of the heart, with the change-journey mapped out in the soul.
Why do I feel the need to do this? What should my name be, what name would most fully reflect who I am? Will I face repercussions? Will people “get it?” Why would I spend my energy to do this?
The answer to all the questions ended up being simple and straightforward and honest . . . I want to re-claim myself as I claim my new name.
We discussed this very thing when our class met on Sunday. In some ways, we honored our newly-named friends and acknowledged the soulwork and stamina it took for them to take the path to newness. We acknowledged the inner path to be dimly lit at times, filled with branches that could have blocked the way, and dangerous, as our paths and journeys often are. You know the dangerous places — our self-doubt, our rejections and betrayals, our times of being marginalized, misunderstood and dismissed. And Yet, when we memorialized and solemnized this journey to new names, we discovered the glistening light and vibrant color of it, the place from which our friends with new names emerged.
I want to re-claim myself as I claim my new name. I want to embrace who I really am as I embrace my new name.
Emerging . . .
From a Good and Dangerous Place of Glistening Light and Vibrant Color
Over the past few years, our Sunday School class studied Biblical women who faced challenges, changes or trauma. There were many. We traveled their journeys with them and imagined their emotions. One of the things we noticed about many of them is that they were unnamed, dismissed, invisible. Their stories led us to our own stories of being dismissed, ignored, invisible unremembered and unnamed. Our grief rose up from our souls as we traveled with them, and we were taken aback by all the ways we have been “unnamed” and “unremembered” in our lives.
I read a post this morning by Dianna Butler Bass. As always, her words struck a chord. Interestingly, she cited one of my all-time favorite books, “In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins,” written by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, which uncovered the story of an unnamed Biblical woman. This is what Dianna wrote:
The opening image from Fiorenza’s “In Memory of Her” made me gasp.
“In the passion account of Mark’s Gospel three disciples figure prominently,” she wrote. Those three were Judas, Peter, and “the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus.” Fiorenza claims, “While the stories of Judas and Peter are engraved in the memory of Christians, the story of the woman is virtually forgotten. Although Jesus pronounces in Mark: ‘And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.’”
Yet, as Fiorenza notes, the woman has been largely passed over; “even her name is lost to us.” The women had disappeared to history — the very woman whom Jesus promised would live in memory. I realized that I didn’t want to disappear — that I wanted to be seen as fully human, to be remembered as one who loved Jesus, and as a faithful follower. I had lived too long in a theological community that erased women, excluded us from the story, and trivialized our experiences of Jesus. I wanted the disappearing act to end.” (p. 209).
Isn’t that what we all want and need? To not be unnamed or erased. To be named and remembered for the person ps we really are, not the persons, others define, describe and name. My comfort, as always, is that God knows my name. God never forgets who I am and, in fact, helps me to continually become the woman of worth I am meant to be. God has always guided me through that “good, glistening and dangerous place,” where I often go when I’m searching for my self. I emerge from that good and hard place every time, better and stronger.
The mystery and miracle is that God calls me “Beloved Daughter,” always, and that makes all the difference. So, if you need to, change your name! Change yourself, not into the person others want you to be, but into the person that is fully YOU. Dare to enter that good and hard place, that “good and glistening place” with the courage to meet your soul there and the assurance that you will emerge — new, renewed, known, named and cherished. God does that!
I am confident, friends, that my name and yours is locked in God’s heart, forever. God even knows our name when we change it! And the fullness of God’s grace is evident in the words of Mark’s Gospel:
And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.— Jesus
Jesus spoke those grace-filled words, and his words are true of us, each of us. Imagine this for a moment. Whatever you do in Christ’s name, whatever kindness, compassion, assistance you offer to another person, whatever act of love you do or act of grace you give, what you have done will be told and remembered. Imagine overhearing the words Jesus spoke that day: “What she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Thanks be to God who always holds our names close and never, ever forgets them.
I searched for uplifting music to leave with you today, but could not decide between these two very different presentations. Enjoy and be inspired!