AFTER living in the same place for a while, some people’s faces become familiar. We pass one another daily on
AFTER living in the same place for a while, some people’s faces become familiar. We pass one another daily on the way to work or the shops, the pub or the gym. One is a jogger, another a young mother taking her children to school, a disabled man with his shopping bag, a woman in an electric buggy, the policewoman, the postman, the boy with a skateboard.
After a while we exchange a smile or a good morning and maybe they respond — or not. The faces are known but who are they?
It’s different with neighbours. True, they seem to move in and out more frequently nowadays but ask them their names and after a while we get to know them as people.
There’s something about knowing someone’s name that actually helps you to establish a relationship. It feels like a privilege to know something so intimate and personal and it makes you feel good when they call you by your name. We’re much more to one another than just familiar faces in the street. My name is something I have been given, chosen by my parents, and entered in the registrar’s great book.
It is possible to change my given name legally and some people — fed up with the choice and deciding that’s it just not “them” — do so, or merely get their friends to call them something else.
And, of course, there’s always the business of shortening the long ones — Fred for Frederick, for instance — or acquiring a nickname that has no connection with your real one. But, however it is, my name is mine and yours is yours.
In an increasingly dislocated and busy world this means a great deal. It may sometimes seem that I am a mere cipher — a collection of digits and letters for the NHS or the bank, the tax inspector or the DHSS — but my name sets me apart and seals my individuality.
This is “me” with all the curious things that make me who I am and not “you” with the characteristics that make you who you are.
But there is much more. Christians believe that we are significant because we are here not by chance but as part of God’s great purpose. The creation we share with one another is the result of his huge outpouring of energy and love that has brought about the world and the universe in which it is set.
In the hugeness of all that we believe both that the creator can be known by name to us and that he in turn knows each individual as a unique and precious child of his. A verse in the Bible has God saying: “I have called you by name, you are mine.”
It is easy to feel overcome and powerless in the face of the many disturbing aspects of life today — of the violence that threatens to engulf the Middle Fast or Korea, of the plans of terrorist groups, of the control faceless bankers and multi-national companies have over our lives. We fear the weakness of our economy and the uncertainty it brings to the livelihood of so many.
Older people may fear the increasing complexity of modern life, while many young people wonder whether they will ever find employment.
It’s very easy to feel lost in the immensity and increasing uncertainty of a world over which we seem to have lost control but the Christian message is of a God who knows us and loves us as individuals.
The name that defines us as a person is known not only by our family, friends and neighbours but by the God who brought us into being and invites us into a relationship with him. In Jesus we see God’s human face and know that we do not face life alone.