What’s in a name?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Inspiration this week comes from Luke chapter 9: Jesus and Zacchaeus. Specifically, verse 5:

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said, ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.'”

We learn to understand our names as babies before we can even speak ourselves. Each of us has one, and it makes us unique. Have you ever spent time thinking of the importance of getting personal enough to call someone by name? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently as I began my tenure as a substitute in our local middle school. There are a lot of kids (a sea of movement down the hallways with faces partially disguised by masks) but each one has a name and a unique blend of traits that makes them special.

The critical question for me becomes: How does each student know that I consider them valuable and special?

It starts when I call them by name – by the right name, pronounced correctly, and with a smile on my face. I’m masked up too, but I know in my heart that the kids can sense my smile. With about 200 students in the school, knowing each one’s name is not a simple goal. I’m lucky to have coached about a quarter of them, but that still leaves a large number of masked faces looking at me with expectation.

As if to put an exclamation point on the importance of this goal, the Holy Spirit inspired our Youth Pastor to ask me recently to read a book entitled, “It’s Personal”. The book, by Virginia Ward, Reggie Joiner, and Kristen Ivy covers how hope is intrinsically tied to getting personal with the kids that God brings into our lives. Getting personal starts with caring enough to call them by name.

How many people in your life have both a name and a story to tell?

How does it make you feel when someone you barely know calls you by name? How does it make you feel when someone you know fairly well mispronounces or forgets your name? While the book discusses the importance of getting personal with adolescents and teenagers, I would argue that our ability to intentionally take the time to notice and to care impacts the adults in our lives just as much as the kids. The best way to love authentically is to go deep. There is a vulnerability that comes from opening your heart to each person that God brings into your life, but there is also a deep sense of purpose that stems from choosing to take the risk.

The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus illustrates how Jesus felt about heart-felt relationships. Zacchaeus is one example of how Jesus modeled genuine friendship by taking the time to both notice and move in to understand the people around him. Zacchaeus was a loner, an unpopular tax collector struggling with greed and loneliness. When he heard that Jesus was to pass by, he climbed up in a tree to try and see the Messiah. Imagine how he felt when Jesus noticed him, called him by name, and invited him into fellowship?  When Jesus called him by name, I bet that he felt worth. When Jesus invited him into fellowship, I imagine that he felt hope. It’s so simple, but yet so awesomely beautiful.

What if each day there is someone that God intentionally places on your path?

Take the time to stop and look around.

There’s someone who needs you to see them.

It isn’t often convenient and it takes a unique blend of compassion, awareness and courage. Honestly, it’s hard. But it is so, so very important. I pray each day that I slow down to notice, accept, love and value the kids that God brings into my life. It starts by simply learning a name, but it leads to a promise of shared grace.

Who is your Zacchaeus today?


Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

7 responses to “What’s in a name?

  1. Roger Hunt

    Anne,(😊) what a great post!! I’ve never really given a lot of thought to this subject. Maybe because I have a hard time with names. I have been times when I have, in haste, called one of my kids by the wrong name. But to highlight the importance of a name, they always catch it immediately and call me on it.

    Now that I am retired and especially this year when I don’t see others so often it’s hard to come up with their name.
    I know that part of that is my age 🤔.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights/experiences in this post. I’m going to try harder to remember names and to recognize others. ❤

    PS, I can just imagine how hard it was for you to recognize all those new students, especially wearing masks!!! 🥺

    • Hi Roger! I too am challenged by remembering names 🌞 I share this post in the hope that you’ll find your Zacchaeus each and everyday. I don’t think that God means to “stress us out” but rather to encourage us to slow down enough to make sure that we see who He places on our path. They may be “in a tree” or somewhere not exactly right in front of us, but trying to get our attention. There is such joy to be found in connecting with those who are in need ❤️

      You have such a soft, loved filled heart 🌈 don’t be afraid to share it!

      Take care,

      • Roger Hunt

        Sharing the love is not hard for me. I have been an advocate of that for a long time. However, I am thankful for your encouragement! ❤ Some are reluctant to receive it!?!?

  2. Pastor Becky

    I used to be able to remember so many names and now, my mind plays tricks on me! I believe what you say is so true! May the Lord continue to work on me! Thanks for a great post!

    • Thank you, Becky! I know that the Lord will continue to work in and through you 😊❤️Sometimes I have to literally slow my brain down so that I can get the name – repetition is important so when I figure it out, I make sure that I use it to help “cement” it in between my ears. I’m pretty new to this intentional journey but believe it to be so very important!

      Sending hope and prayers your way!

  3. Reading this was just lovely 🙂

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