names that fade
Small hand in big hand, Joel walks down the street wearing his father’s left palm like an oversized mitten. Already a master at dodging the large dangerous chasms in the side walk, Joel’s eyes begin to wander in search for something interesting. “Daddy, who is that?” And his dad, following the path of his finger, replies, “Oh, that’s Mr. Smith.” Uninterested in this uninteresting answer, Joel asks, “Who’s Mr. Smith?” His dad pauses, remembering the day his friend, James Smith, walked down the aisle and gave his life to Jesus. He remembers Mr. Smith’s subsequent battle to be free from alcohol, the many awards he won for his teaching and the long nights spent at his house weeping with him after his wife passed away. Then Joel’s father looks down at his son and says, “Mr. Smith is a Christian.” “Oh,” says Joel in momentary satisfaction. Five chasms later he asks, “What’s a Christian?” And so the walk continued.
Let us leave the cozy hearth between their hands and ponder for a second. The father’s answer doesn’t seem full. Instead of Christian, Mr. Smith could have been called an alcoholic, a teacher, a widower or maybe a prideful man who propped up his self-esteem with meaningless planks of wood and chrome. So what about you? Who does the world say you are? Who do you say you are? Who does God say you are? Who will you believe?
One month ago, I was in church as we were singing a song by Matt Redman called Wide As The Sky. By the second repetition, I noticed the lyrics tap tap knocking on my heart. “Let all the other names fade away // let all the other names fade away // until there’s only You.” Three lines, 11 unique words that deftly describe the entirety of the Christian walk. Like Joel, as I walk today with My Father God, I reminisce that all the dangers I have faced in the dark chasms of the shadow of death were nothing more than bad names. The danger was not in the circumstance. The dangers were either the dark names the world wanted me to wear or weak names I claimed for myself. And yet none of them could swallow me or bury the light I am. Not because I am strong no. I am still His son because God, my Good and Holy Father, never stopped calling me His Name.
Now, as I look back, I see all the names that came and tried to stay but eventually faded away. And I pray, all the more I pray, “Let all the other names fade away, until there’s only You.” For His Name is a Strong Tower. His Name makes every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Is Lord. His Name is like the staff of Moses that swallows up every other name the world seeks to give you.
And yet, like the snakes of the Egyptian magicians, I often find myself mesmerized and threatened by the names the world consistently offers me. The name “smart” promises vision, “beauty” promises self-esteem and “husband” promises love. And yet, and yet, will my esteem will fade as my beauty ages? Will my intelligence make me lonely with vision? Will my wife leave me, even if I am a good husband? And so I am mesmerized and threatened. I am pulled forward and repelled. I am petrified by my fear of and desire for what I could be. This is the problem with the names the world offers and the names I try to give myself. The world may have the power to invent names and offer names but the world lacks the power to give them.
Not so with God Almighty. God’s Power is embedded in every name He Gives. He called Abram (exalted father) Abraham (father of many nations) long before the man had one child. Although He knew that Simon (listen) would deny Him three times, Jesus still called him Peter (rock) who preached so that Jesus became Christ to 3000 people. In
Now with all these verses in my head, it became clear that this song by Matt Redman is a distillation of a heavenly vision. When he saw it, I can imagine that tears welled up in his eyes as they now do in mine. Brother Redman is describing the day all Christians all seek and look forward to; the day when we will be free from the oppression of names that do not belong to us. “Let all the other names fade away, until there’s only You. Jesus, take your place. Jesus take your place.”