Ann, Julie, Sadie, Suanne…We were all given a name when we were born. As we grow our names take on more meaning… student, friend, mother, doctor, caregiver. Going one layer deeper, we take on other names… smart, creative, outgoing, ambitious. For most of us the voices in our heads, if we let them, also have a way of naming us… unworthy, ugly, a failure, incapable. As Suanne Camfield assures, “ We need to speak it into one another if we’re ever to live out our dreams.” Naming and being named—being known for who we are—determines how we take our next steps, either with fear and uncertainty about who we are, or with courage and freedom to take on the names God gave us—forgiven, called, redeemed. It’s a grace to welcome Suanne to the farm’s front porch today…
Knowing what I know now, had I not gone through with the party—a becoming party, I had called it—the regret would have swallowed me whole.
The evening was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever known.
Sadie lay slumped in an oversized bean bag, acting every minute of her thirteen years, but I knew her well enough to know it was her way of managing her own awkwardness about receiving the gift that was to come.
About twenty women were gathered who had been part of her young life.
I had given them two simple instructions: share one word of affirmation and one word of advice.
I sat in a nearby chair and gently commenced the evening, looking each person in the eye, explaining the difference they made, known or unaware, by simply being who they were and offering it into the life of a child.
I listened as one by one the women gathered in the room that night named my daughter.
Words, so many words, poured forth.
Words of encouragement: Your smile lights up a room.
Words of affirmation: You’re a leader.
Words of advice: Avoid girl drama and boys.
Words of wisdom: Whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, think of such things.
Words of challenge: Be kind in the midst of your leadership and seek out those who are on the fringes, for they too need a friend.
But most importantly words of truth.
Truth that washed over her, washed over me, washed over the decades represented by each person who sat in the room because that’s what truth does.
It’s the quintessential nature of truth. It pierces. It washes. It cleanses.
It settles over us and reminds us of that which is right and lovely and noble in one another and in this world at the same time it reminds us of all that is broken with both; it threads and binds us together by reminding us of that which is universally true.
We spend much of life sharing the same fears, the same insecurities; we ask the same questions about who we are and where we fit in this world; we make the same mistakes, we long for the desires that fulfill our deepest needs.
We wonder if anyone will sit with us at lunch or invite us to the dance or if we studied enough to pass the exam.
We wonder if we will be found out. We want. We ache. We need.
We are people who possess and distort and so need the truth.
We need to speak it into one another if we’re ever to live out our dreams.
With the richness of the party draped still over my shoulders, I thought once again about how one of the great tragedies of our Western culture is that we have a nasty habit of waiting until we’re standing at someone’s funeral to speak the very truth about them that we saw all along, the truth that most made them who they are and the truth that, perhaps, they most needed to know if they were ever going to step into the person they were created to be.
Naming happens when someone has the courage to sit across a table from us, their life from ours, look us intently in the eye and name what they see.
Naming is profound; it’s an indescribable moment when the hands of time stop because someone has reached into our chest and pulled our hearts right out; they hold it in their hands (carefully, because they know one wrong word could crush it), and they whisper truth, not over it but into it, in a way that delivers a piece of who we are.
And while the words are meant for that specific space in time, for that part of who we are that needs to come alive in a singular moment, a child cowering in darkness being called into the light, they will stay with us forever and change who we are.
We will go back to them again and again, in our darkest nights when we’ve lost hope about the Stirring and who we’re trying to become, because they are the words that will remind us that who we are is visible to other people, that what we were made to do is seen, that God has uniquely gifted and wired us and that we didn’t hear Him wrong when He called us.
They are the words that compel us to carry on with our dreams for just one more day.
We also must not be afraid to give this gift of naming away.
It takes courage to step outside of ourselves and speak to the invisible, to breathe life into someone when at our core we feel like it may be snatching a piece of our own, like somehow it threatens our own name.
But we must set this aside because it’s a lie.
In naming someone else, we actually become more of who we are. It strengthens our own character, our confidence, our fortitude.
By giving a piece of ourselves away, we get something back.
To name someone is to make them known. And to know our own selves better.
I’m profoundly perplexed by the idea that, given His grandeur, His omnipotence and majesty, His eminence and glory, God chooses to call each of us by name.
That He chooses to know us so uniquely and intently and completely, in such a way that He finds the right words to pierce our souls, to speak just to us, as gently and intimately as a mother rubbing noses with her adoring child.
There may, perhaps, be no other phenomenon I find so perplexing and awesome than this about God.
He names us first.
He names us not only in our giftedness and calling and dreams, He names us first and foremost as His children.
Beloved, redeemed, forgiven, called.
Suanne Camfield says, “I’m obsessed with Jesus and the way His grace has transformed the world, my husband’s cooking, and developing meaningful relationships.” Suanne is women’s director at Christ Church of Oak Brook as well as a writer and speaker. She previously served as development director for Caris, a pregnancy resource and counseling center, and is a founding member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
In her first book, The Sound of a Million Dreams, she writes of the varied dreams that she has pursued over the course of her life. It’s not a book primarily about vocation. It is a book about being a dreamer who is shaped by God — about having the wisdom and courage to step into the places of our most vulnerable longing.
[ Our humble thanks to InterVarsity Press for their partnership today’s devotion ]