Last week my back went out and it is still keeping me down even as I type with the smell of Ben-Gay wafting through the air. I smell like, like, like old people.
I don't remember the name of the movie but it was an old Frank Sinatra movie with (I think but could be mistaken) Danny Kaye and Fred Astaire.
Frank- What do you see in that girl anyway?
Danny- She's the most beautiful girl in the world and she has the most beautiful name!
Frank- A name! What's in a name, what's in a name?!? Why I once knew a girl named Virginia!
The Bible seems to have a higher view of names than Frank does. We see again and again men and women whose names get changed. Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and even Saul to Paul are all name changes that changed the courses of these men's lives and indeed the course of history itself. I want you to think about the power of identity in the Kingdom of God today. Jacob the supplanter, the one who deceived, and grasped, and connived became Israel the overcomer, the one who strove with God and men and overcame. Seen from God's eternal standpoint this is who Jacob really was all along only Jacob didn't know it yet. Jacob didn't feel like an overcomer when he was his father's SECOND favorite son. He didn't feel especially victorious even when he deceived his way into the blessing and the birthright of his brother- in fact he ran away at that point. He did not feel like he was 'overcoming' when he worked for Laben for more than fourteen years and he certainly did not feel like a conquering hero as he returned at the end of the camel train to face his brother again. His children let him down a lot and when he lost Joseph he must have thought that the name Israel was a cruel joke after all. But in the end he births the twelve most influential tribes in the world and a nation stands today on the map bearing his true name- Israel. Of course, this political name on the map is nothing compared to the reality of the heavenly Kingdom which bears the name Israel and is made up of men and women from every tribe and nation on earth.
I was speaking to a friend once about a liberal activist in the West who was especially irksome to my very conservative friend. My friend mentioned what an egotistical fraud this man really was and how he wished everyone could see him for who he really was. I responded that it would be better if HE could see who he really was. Regardless of this liberal activist current status in the news or in his own mind God had a plan for him and a position that was better, more glorious, and certainly more eternal than this man could ever dream of. It is unfortunate that he has believed the lie about himself and has followed a road of self-adulation and self-fulfillment. It is more than unfortunate, it is tragic. You see, it is easy for us to identify with the oppressed in the world today. We know that they are wronged and we cry out for their justice. But, did you know that the oppressors are equally wronged? Do you understand that their real names are not oppressor, villain, backstabber, politician, scoundrel, but rather God longs to name them peacemaker, rescuer, lover, and friend? When men and women settle their identity on less than God's grace they have settled for a lie and walk in darkness.
When I started this blog I had a problem. If this were truly 'Tales from Middle Earth' then I could pick any character I wanted to to represent myself. Aragorn came quickly to mind but Aragorn is the King. He is tall and majestic. He is wise and valiant. He is a conquerer, a warrior, and a hero. I am none of those things- or at least, I am not comfortable wearing any of those descriptors. But then I fell on Strider. Strider is a name given to Aragorn in the story by people who do not know nor trust him. It is a name for a wanderer of no or questionable reputation. That fits me pretty well. For now, I am very happy to be Strider- a man who wanders on a journey until the King of Kings choses to make him Aragorn.
Many times people have asked me what my name was in the language that they speak in Gondor. What do people call me here? Usually they call me by my western name, sometimes with a 'Mister' in front of it though I don't like that. But about two years ago something happened that I rarely talk about. I have hesitated to tell this story on this blog because it is very personal and it puts me in too good of a light. I am much more comfortable telling you stories of how I screwed up- it boost my humility right? When I first went down to Anfalas I saw a people who were struggling to survive in a plight worse than I had ever personally witnessed before. I helped them with one project and then another. I sat with them, I listened, I listened, and I listened some more. I acted on what I heard and I cried out to God on behalf of this people often and long. One day when I went down to the village I met with the team. Frodo, Sam, and Merry were working on a project and we had dinner that night and prayed together. Merry said to me, "Strider, do you know what the people here call you when you are not around?" I was afraid to know! He said, "They call you 'Didor'" Didor is a word in the language of Gondor for 'the one who sees'. Merry went on to say that Anfalas was poor and many aid agencies and government agencies went to visit it and take pictures but only Strider really saw them. Only Strider really knew who they were and how they suffered.
Well, you can see why I don't like that story. One, it makes me look good, like some kind of hero or something and two, it really isn't true. I don't know them that well. I wish I was that guy, the one who sees, but really only God can bear that title honestly. Still, am I made in His image? Is He not recreating me to be His true child? Can I become the one who sees in earnest? I think that is what he wants for me. In Revelation 2:17 Jesus says that he will .... give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. Could it be that one day I will receive a stone with my new name? And what will it say, Strider or Aragorn? Didor or Sleeper? What is your name? Your actions could determine that today. Let go of the name that the world has given you, it is a lie. What is your new name? Who is the King making you to become? What does your new name direct you to do today?