The Power of Naming

 

2011-09-26 21.31.06When a little bobble-headed, tuxedo kitten showed up in my yard howling for help, I picked her up and felt ribs. She hissed when her feet left the ground but by the time she reached my shoulder she was purring like an Italian sports car. It took less than a week to realize she had chosen me as her human, so I set about trying to come up with a name for her. I tried Squeaker for a week or so because the way her cry sounded, but she categorically refused to answer to it.  She was extremely vocal and sounded like Beaker from the Muppets, like she was actually having a conversation in a high-pitched voice. It sounded like a series of “meeps”. One day as she stood with her back to me I called “Meep.” She turned around and looked at me and that was that.

There is something powerful in a name. In Genesis chapter one, God created the world by calling it into being by name. God said let there be light and there was light. Then he created man and woman and named them Adam and Eve. God even granted man the honor of naming things in the Garden of Eden. Then as Adam and Eve had children, they chose names for them as well. In Old Testament times, and even still today, great thought was taken in choosing a name. The Israelites called God multiple names based on different aspects of His character, such as Our Father or Our Provider. There is power in asking for something in God’s name and in God’s will.

There is also something about naming something that takes away fear. The unknown is scary and full of worst case scenarios. However, when we can finally name our fear or disease or problem, it calms us because until we can name it we don’t know how to fight it. I was watching a television show called Chasing the Cure. The guests were people with mysterious conditions that their doctors had been unable to identify or cure. Many had suffered for years. On the show a group of doctors work with a network of medical specialists and the general public to try and put a name to their illness and then hopefully find a cure or at least a treatment. For many of them, just finding a diagnosis was freeing after so many years of uncertainty.

The same can be said about sin. When we name our sins before God, then we can ask forgiveness and move forward.  When we just say a blanket forgive me, the “hidden” sins still taunt us as if God doesn’t already know about them. When we admit them to Him, then He can heal us and help us move forward. Identifying a problem is the first step to a solution. In this case, naming the sin and admitting it is the first step in battling it.

The same can also be said about our enemy. In the series Harry Potter, people refuse to say the name of the evil wizard Voldemort out of fear. Harry refuses to fall prey to that fear and says his name out loud, unwilling to give Voldemort any power over him. While Voldemort is a fictional character, our enemy is not. Ephesians 2:6 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” There is power in identifying the enemy and knowing that we are fighting against something more than other humans. We are fighting a battle at the spiritual level.  When we name our sins and ask forgiveness and we name our enemy and claim God’s victory, then we know we can win the battle we are facing because God has already won the war.

The Unknown

Unknown

I am a planner. I like to plan out things for maximum efficiency. For instance, if I know I have several errands to take care of, I will plan out what order of attack will be the most efficient based on the locations of errands in relation to home, each other, and traffic patterns (such as left-turn signals or busy roadways). I also take into consideration if I need to go to one place first, such as the bank. Then I implement my attack. I get great satisfaction in ticking off my list as I go. It makes me feel productive. What I don’t like is going into the unknown, whether it is a new grocery store or a new career. I want to know the plan and the best way to get there; however, God often has other ideas.

When I was called to serve as a short-term missionary to Seoul, South Korea, I was excited and a little nervous. There were all kinds of plans to be made, such as what to do with my car while I was gone or what to pack to take with me. I thought I had everything under control; however, there was a hiccup in the transportation plans. I wrote to the mission about my arrival, but I never received a response. I had a plane ticket and my passport, but I had no idea what would happen once I arrived at the airport, such as who, if anyone, was picking me up. The last and main leg of the journey was a 15-hour non-stop flight, and I spent 90% of that flight trying not to worry about what would happen when I got there. When I stepped through the doors of customs into the waiting area, I searched the crowd, my heart racing. At first, I only saw a mass of strangers rushing to greet other passengers, but then I spotted a group of people holding a welcome sign with my name on it and felt a wave of relief wash over me. God had provided a way even though I did not know of the plans He was making in my behalf.

When Abraham left his country in Genesis 12, he had no idea where he was going. He went by faith. When God told Noah to build a boat when it hadn’t even rained, it took faith. When the Israelites left Egypt and walked into the desert, they didn’t know where they were going either. I did not know what would happen when I got to the airport, but God did. The reason God leads us into the unknown is to build our faith and force us to trust in who He is instead of in ourselves.

We want to know the plan, but God just wants us to know Him. The goal of this life is a relationship with God, to know Him better, to trust Him. The only way to do that is to step out in faith from the known path into the unknown, to cast out into the deep away from the seeming safety of the shore, knowing that whatever He has planned for us is better than anything we can dream up.

While planning has its place, we also need to be open to following God into the unknown believing in faith that He knows what lies ahead and will be with us all the way. If we follow His lead, we will never go astray. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” The phrase “be still” can be translated “cease striving” or “release your hold” or “relax.” God is in the driver’s seat, and He knows more than any GPS about what lies ahead, so relax and enjoy the journey. God’s got this!