Names. I hear a lot of them out on the morning road. Costa Ricans are a friendly bunch and blue skies inspire greetings. My favorite booms out from an elderly man working in his pasture, “¡Ay caramba, machita! ¿Como está?”
My goodness, little blondie, how are you?
With such a welcome, it would be hard not to call back the customary, “Very well, thank you. How are you?”
Amor (Love), Hija (Daughter), the formal Señora (Ma’am): local culture embraces endearments and nicknames. A cheery pineapple vendor once called my friend, “negrita.” It translates as little black girl, but also refers to the patron saint of the country, a stone representation of the mother of Christ. His intended meaning to the Caucasian matron was something like “dear, kind woman.”
Referring to someone by their ethnicity is also common here, as when a grandmother at church told me so-and-so’s wife is “la china”—the Chinese lady, although the term covers any Asian lineage. And while the movies of my youth gave me a negative slant of the word “gringo,” in Central America it just means people who aren’t Latinos. Europeans, North Americans, we all qualify without malice.
Names mean something. They speak value, or the lack of it. Taking the time to use a name ups the intensity. Whether it’s an encouragement of being known, or a parent hauling out the long form for fear factor, what’s written on your birth certificate is only the beginning.
What names define me? What names do you call yourself?
Some names are comfortable: wife, friend, sister.
Some labels we hesitate to claim, as if we might not deserve them: runner, writer, good mother.
Names have power, they evoke a response. Most likely, something happens inside you when you read the word Jesus or Trump.
Here in the tropics, this is insect paradise. Some visit us like blessings. We reach out to them and hope they draw close. We admire their colors, learn from them, and release their beauty forward. They inspire us.
Some bugs we stomp on sight, knowing their danger.
Names should be the same way.
In the states, you might feel a tiny tickle on your skin and give a look. Usually, nothing is there. In Costa Rica, something almost always is. At any given moment, a tiny ant crawls into view onto my book, my arm, my phone, even occasionally my eyeglasses. Yes, the ones on my face that I’m looking through. It’s crazy.
Without invitation, names crawl onto us, as well. Lazy, needy, too _________, or not enough _________. Everyone can fill in their own blanks. Those names never decide to crawl themselves back off. They have to be remedied and rubbed away.
The problem starts with names; the solution begins there, too.
Jesus was given the name above all names, authority over every name. He turns to each of us to ask, “As for you, who do you say I am?”
There are a variety of answers: good teacher, irrelevant, prophet, blasphemer, Son of God.
My response is Lord and Savior.
Some names are easy to brush off like those tiny ants. Others seem to take hold and burrow in. Almost every morning of my eighth grade year, one boy greeted me, “Hello, Ugly.” I tried to smile and make it something pretty. Inside of me, it never worked.
So I turn to Jesus and ask him in return, “As for you, who do you say that I am?”
There are a variety of answers: beloved, daughter, overcomer, chosen, cherished.
Many names, each one true. The ones he uses are the only ones that matter.
“to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” Isaiah 56:5 NIV
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things [all those false names]; preserve my life according to your word [the true names you give me].” Psalm 119:37 NIV
Who do you say that Jesus is? And who does he say that you are? Share you names with us. We’d love to cheer you on.