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Called by name

August 14, 2011

Browsing through the Poems on the Underground archive on the Transport for London website, I came across this little gem by Walt Whitman, where he asks himself the question we all ask ourselves at some point or another:

What Am I After All

What am I after all but a child, pleas`d with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear – it never tires me.

To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three
pronunciations in the sound of your name?

A while ago, I came across an inspiring blog entitled ‘A New Name’ by Emma Scrivener which explores some of life’s big questions such as image, contentment and identity. You can read her post, ‘What’s in a name?’ complete with readers’ comments here.

I’ve always thought names are important, not least of all when I was working as a waitress in France sometime ago, with no name but my job title. One afternoon, a retired couple asked me if I wanted to have tea with them. I was brought to tears by their unexpected kindness and generosity. Almost immediately, I felt like their granddaughter. And they called me by name.

There are two Bible verses which really strike me in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation which talk about the names of those who overcome, standing firm in faith until the end.

Incidentally, what does that mean, to overcome? As always, there’s no point trying in our own strength, because that is our very weakness. No—the only way we can overcome is by trusting in the Overcomer, Jesus, who overcame sin and death to set us free. Jesus said that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

That’s why John writes in one of his letters: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)

And that’s why Paul, when writing to the church in Corinth, doesn’t merely tell them to stand firm, but to “stand firm in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:21). Those two words make a world of difference.

Back to the two verses about names…

The first is looked at in Emma’s blog post and reads as follows: “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

And the second is this: “The one who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white*. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)

Whitman is right. There is so much more to a name than two or three pronunciations in the sound.

*Being dressed in white is linked to being made clean (read Quiet Company and a Clean Page for more on this).

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2011 00:00

    Check out these extracts from my collection –

    • August 17, 2011 11:00

      Thanks Bill. Watch this space for a mini review – I’ll put it up within a few days, once I’ve looked your poems in more depth.

  2. August 15, 2011 20:35

    Thanks Becs – great quotation from Whitman too, and one I hadn’t come across.

  3. August 17, 2011 11:02

    Thanks Emma. I hoped you wouldn’t mind me posting a link to your blog! Yes, the poem is a special one – I just love it when somebody puts into words something that you yourself can’t explain, and in such a beautiful and concise way as well.


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