What’s In a Name?

What’s in a Name?

There was a terrifically wonderful period of time some years after my conversion in 1983 when God’s providence and the circumstances of life provided me a chance to go into a much greater level of detail about my family history, and my personal story.

Upon digging around the history of my family (my great, great uncle Lewis Lynn was a genealogist) , I saw the panoply of the French D’Auge (the “Dozier’s” of today) family line open up before me. It began in northwestern France, came to the shores of America in Virginia, migrated to the southeastern states, river-boated up the Mississippi River, and into St. Louis, St. Charles area in the 1860’s.

From a birds eye view of history, irony, and paradox, that was especially poignant during the period of time of the D’Auge family line where, as French Huguenots escaping religious persecution from the Roman Catholic Church, fled to Switzerland, and came to the United States to express their Reformed faith freely, and begin a new life.

As I began to place my own spiritual story on top of the history of my paternal-side family, I saw my journey in the Roman Catholic Church, evolving into the Reformed faith as I grew in grace and discipleship, and now re-establishing my French Huguenot lineage in St. Louis to bring back a faith in Jesus Christ as it was meant to be: “Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”); Sola fide (“by faith alone”); Sola gratia (“by grace alone”); Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”); Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)”.

The French Huguenots, Reformers in word and deed, had landed once again…

It was during this period of time that I had the huge blessing to look into more details of the origins of my own name, “John”. Right smack dab in the midst of this journey I had the blessing to see my name at as it was unintentionally given me by my parents and the generation before me…

And today as “John”, in the Hebrew, “God is mercy”. Wow…

Upon realizing not only the origins of my name but the span of NOT knowing my name, not knowing myself, counting myself as the most unknown, unworthy, and shameful, and then moving to the place of seeing my worthiness in light of the good news of Jesus Christ, was like the sun rising on a new day in the D’Auge family history—coupled with a brand new beginning for what I began to unpack over time is the meaning of my own name, “John”… “God is mercy!”

For the next several years I was blessed again and again and again with the unbelievable sweetness, robustness, personal importance of acknowledging the manifold mercies of God.

Along with the journey that helped uproot, examine, and re-root the origins of my family history and more personally my own name and place in my family history, I came to realize not only the importance of a name but the threefold way… The only way… We can establish the reality and importance of A (anyone’s) name… of OUR (most personally) name.

The gap between The Fall’s (Genesis 3; Romans 1:18-32) impact on our humanity as characterized by the cruel sense of anonymity we have become so familiar with, and the deeply personal knowledge of, and intimacy for, each human being God created and is sustained by Him (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)… is indeed as wide today as ever before in Western history: We are a people of many, and yet too often Nameless to ourselves and those in our midst. The depiction of an overly-crowded street full of “nameless, isolated individualism” is an all-to-familiar metaphor and cruel irony of modern life.

It involves so much pain and regret when anyone grasps that fact that, “Unknown” may be the most realistic name he or she should use on all forms of identity. But this to can be redeemed by God!

“As Toilsome I Wander’d”… “Unknown”, by Walt Whitman:

“As toilsome I wander’d Virginia’s woods, To the music of rustling leaves, kick’d by my feet, (for ’twas autumn,) I mark’d at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier, Mortally wounded he, and buried on the retreat, (easily all could I understand). The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! No time to lose—yet this sign left, On a tablet scrawl’d and nail’d on the tree by the grave, “Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.” (“Unknown”)

Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering; Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life; Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or in the crowded street, Comes before me the unknown soldier’s grave—comes the inscription rude inVirginia’s woods, “Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.” (“Unknown”)”

(Walt Whitman, commentary on The Civil War and the tens of thousands Union and Confederate soldiers graves marked, “Unknown”)

“Unknown”, the gravestone marker most common in the days of the Civil War when Whitman penned this poignant poem. BUT, please hear this, for the Triune God of the Bible, there is no “Unknown”, in all of humanity.

“In Christ…” We are Born-Again, Welcomed into a New Family, Re-Named as a Child of God, to Grow into Our New Names!

There are three distinct ways and means whereby we must pursue our new identity, our new name—“In Christ…” (Ephesians 1), now unashamed, in the family of God, and sent on Christ’s mission to help redeem the world… as a uniquely ransomed, named, storied, gifted, empowered son or daughter of God.

Please take careful note: You will possibly find the following to be very countercultural… even in the church of today.

1) Service—paradoxically, we cannot discover and grow into our name, our new name, by “spending some good quiet, quality time”, introspectively studying various facets of ourselves, going on a retreat, to emerge from the caverns of our own ego… enlightened about who we really and truly are. It’s not possible to discover who we are from within.

The first thing we must do is serve others! We discover ourselves by losing ourselves in the service of others. Exactly like Jesus did, His identity was born out of serving mankind’s needs to be saved from sin, and be saved… to serve! “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Consider this: Have you ever poured out your life for another—even just for a brief period of time or smallish effort—and then, as you reflected back on the experience, said to yourself, “Geez, was that ME speaking? Did that encouragement, compassion, patience, advice, etc come out of… ME? Maybe this is a good time to reflect on who ME really is? This possibly unnoticed yet amazing experience was so helpful in seeing HE… in ME!”

Or, taking the opposite course, perhaps you have poured out your wrath and venom on someone… And come to the same—albeit very negative—conclusion? “I’m shocked and horrified of the ME… I see. I need of change in my… BE’ing to fulfill my desire for DO’ing!”

As I seek to discern the motivation for many who regularly or irregularly attend church, I sense the primary question is, “What’s in it for ME?” As opposed to, “How can I best serve the Body of Christ?”—which is one of the most important reasons to be a vital, committed, poured-out, Christ- and other-centered member of any church.

I find it to be so ironic, and much more painful than that, that the more we have become a self-centered lot, the more we do not know our own name, our own identity, our own purpose in life… or, even more so, in death… buried in that shallow grave named, “Unknown”.

2) Community—here’s the next countercultural necessity connected to deeply knowing our name: In a world of “crowded isolation” and “virtual communities” designed to hide from ourselves and from one another, the necessity of being a part of a Godly, Bible-based, transparent, listening, serving, and accountable community… has become extremely anomalous.

It is only by living as part of a (Bible-based) community that we have the ability to see ourselves as we truly are: The fruit of community born out of the Trinity!

For me, there is no better description of how community shapes us—helps us know and grow into our name, story, destiny; while helping us get to know others best as well—than CS Lewis’ descriptions of being in the community he described as The Inklings. (See, “The Four Loves”, etc)

Devoid of being a part of a Bible-based community, we will be forever stuck in “the community of own our mind, emotions, and habits”. Like being condemned forever to live and flourish in a hall of mirrors, we will grow more and more deeply insane by the contempt of our own reflection… our own identity… our own name.

3) Intimacy—saving the last for best—while reminding you that the last cannot satisfy without the first and second—growing more and more intimate with our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, is fundamental to “knowing our name”, our new identity, who we really, really are: In time, and for eternity!

Libraries could be filled with this subject matter, but suffice it to say that a habitual (“I’ve always been a Christian”; “I learned about Jesus in church”; “I consider myself a religious, good guy, gal”), cursory (“I know a little about Jesus and think he’s a great teacher, example”; “I have a version of Jesus who’s comfortable for me”), or cultural (“Jesus is another road to God”; “who’s to know the truth about Jesus… really”; “all the Bible was written for a time, unlike our time, and changed over time in a gillion ways”; “Jesus lovers are just mean-spirited bigots”) knowledge of Jesus Christ is in no way, shape, or form an INTIMATE relationship with Him.

Intimacy with Jesus begins by repentance and being born-again—and then growing wider and deeper… as an unashamed yet humble disciple, a known and named member of God’s family, making a Christian family of our own, serving in His name, sacrificially contributing to various communities… and living all life in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication… each day following… until we die, or He comes again!

Amen.

“What’s in a Name?” Only everything.

JohnDoz

2 comments on “What’s In a Name?
  1. Laurie says:

    John,
    I just thank God for you and for sharing your story! Your love and devotion for the Lord Jesus is so evident and constantly encourages me!
    thanks, Brother….keep on running the race!

  2. johndoz says:

    I thank Him so much too, Sister Laurie! It’s akin to my remembrance of most of King-Shepherd David’s communications to God (and us): Most end with words and actions like, “…and I will be a witness to others of Your work…”

    And you do this so well, Laurie…

    “Comforted to comfort…”,
    JDoz

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