There is power in a name. When I think of naming my brain goes first to Meg from A Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle. In the second book Wind in the Door Meg, the main character, learns the power of naming people. She must save her loved ones from the Being that is trying to X them out, the Echthroi. The story is very much about Meg learning who she is and also being able to help others remember who they are, a cherubim like creature, Progo, speaks much wisdom to Meg on the their journey. Progo tries to teach Meg the importance of a name and being named. “Meg, when people don’t know who they are, they are open either to being Xed, or Named” Meg has a few very profound conversations about being named and the importance.
“I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming – making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need Namers, because there are places throughout the universe like your planet Earth. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.”
I think of the garden of Eden and how God invited Adam into the naming process. God could have spoken and all would be named, but He gave Adam the power to name, to connect to his surroundings, to connect with creation and grow his heart, I believe to be a better steward of creation. I think of the deep connection as Adam sees Eve, and his first reaction is to name her.
I think of how easy it is to stereotype people, or make assumptions when we do not have a name, or a clear face to go with our views. Once we have a name and a story, our hearts are moved, and we have to really think about how we are going to respond.
This is a lesson I learned through jail ministry. I had worked with the kids that had mamas in jail. They had mamas who ditched out on them for a guy, or for drugs, or both. They had mamas that would be in and out, or drag them in and out. I made some big assumptions in the name of “loving” these kids, and wanting to protect them, and how dare these women, but I did not know these women and their stories. I did not know their names, and I had forgotten their true identity. I did not know how they ended up where they were at, or why they did life the way they did.
Heading into jail and meeting with many women that had kids, and listening to their stories and getting to know them by name changed things. My heart was still for the kids, but it was no longer against their mamas. I now had compassion for these women. I knew them by name. I heard their stories, and started seeing how broken and hurt these women were. It did not make many of their actions right, but it put the humanity into their story. It made me want to help them succeed at being a mama, and to become a healed woman who learned how to walk in their true identity.
One of the first things they do in jail is give a number. They are now a number instead of a woman, wife, daughter, sister, person created in the image of God. I know there are logistics to it, but it truly dehumanizes a person, and eventually people start losing their humanity.
It was a powerful thing to name them by their actual name when they trusted you with that, there was a deep connection. In jail I watched ladies learn their true identity, and learn their truest name. The excitement was beautiful when they would find out they were named by their Father in heaven who calls them Beloved.
It reminds me of another interaction that Progo has with Meg in her course of her journey,
How many? Great heavens, earthling. I haven’t the faintest idea.
But you said your last assignment was to memorize the names of all of them.’
I did. All the stars in all the galaxies. And that’s a great many.
But how many?
What difference does it make? I know their names. I don’t know how many there are. It’s their names that matter.”