Who Do You Say I Am? How Names Define Us

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.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

How?

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?”

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There are a variety of answers: beloved, daughter, overcomer, chosen, cherished.

Beautiful.

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.

Nametags Photo by chuttersnap  & Flower Photo by Gaston Roulstone on Unsplash

Seeing His Face

His little voice chirped it up and down the aisles, his buckled-in body swaying in happy time to the call, “Miss June, where ARE you?”

The week before, our winding pilgrimage to the checkout had been enlivened by an extra-friendly face:  Miss June in all her cheerful glory.  We had a nice chat, and Ezekiel must have registered that his nursery room teacher lived in Walmart as well as the room at church with Noah’s ark painted on the wall.

So now, bored with the monotony of boxes, bags, bottles, and cans, he called out to the sunshine.  I’m here!  Come see me!  I love you!  Seeing her face had changed things.

I hold the lesson close.  In the daily pilgrimage from breakfast to dinner, through school lessons, laundry, dishes, etc., let me reach up my arms and sing-song to my savior.  I’m here!  Come see me!  I love you!  In the process of raising up a team of prayer warriors and financial supporters for our work in Costa Rica, let me keep my eyes more on His promise to provide for us than the pledges coming in on commitment cards.  We are around 40% funded and just over 3 months away from our departure.  Sometimes that feels like a fist-pump of celebration, and sometimes the miles stretch long to the finish line.  Yet each new family on our contact list and each blessing toward our journey is a glimpse of the sunshine of His presence, a smile from our Abba Father.

Miss June may not have been at Walmart that day, but the Lord is always near.  So I will keep looking for Him because seeing His face changes everything.

Looking to the Promise

” . . .I have put my hope in your word.  My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.”  Psalm 119: 81b, 82