My husband has a gift of remembering names and faces. He can often even recall where he met someone and through whom he met them. It’s a superpower that I do not possess.
In my current role as Mennonite Church USA denominational minister, I encounter so many new names throughout the day — through emails and phone conversations. I write each person’s name down, I jot notes about our conversation and concentrate, willing myself to remember this person’s name. But I fail more than I succeed.
Although I struggle with names, I know their importance. It is through the exchange of names that we first reveal insight into who we are with one another, and in that exchange, we begin a relationship. God exemplified this beautifully in journeying with the Israelites over centuries. God is Elohim the Mighty One, Yahweh the Lord, El Roi the God Who Sees, El Shaddai the God Almighty, Yahweh Yireh the God who will Provide, Jehovah Rapha the Healer, Yahweh Shalom the Lord is Peace, and so much more.
There is power in naming and being named.
In the scriptures, we often see transformative encounters with God that result in being renamed. After their encounters with God, Abram is renamed as Abraham, Sarai as Sarah, Jacob as Israel. And in the New Testament, Simon becomes Peter and Saul becomes Paul. Throughout the Bible, we encounter person after person who experiences deeper intimacy with God and a greater awareness of their purpose in this world through the act of being named.
We also share this power of naming with God. It is a sacred gift and responsibility that God grants to human beings. In Genesis, the Creator gives humans the creative task of naming creation. And today, we experience the power of naming when a baby enters a family. In traditional Korean culture, people go to a respected Namer to choose the most blessed name for the child.
The Korean name that my parents chose for me is Sung Hee. In Chinese characters, Sung means bright, and Hee means beam of light.
[To read the full version of this post on MC USA’s Menno Snapshots blog, click here]
Sue Park-Hur is Mennonite Church USA’s denominational minister of leadership development.