The idea of names has been bouncing around our house for awhile now. This is due mainly to the upcoming birth of our third daughter and the responsibility of naming her. We’ve quickly come to realize our first two daughters are named with all-too-common names. We didn’t know it at the time of their namings, but Lily and Ava apparently are the names of practically every third girl between 1-4 years old around here.
The giving and changing of names (typically) occur in serious times of life. Births, marriages, divorces, and in some cultures, religious events bring about names and/or their alterations. Some people have names of familial importance; others names that will hopefully be lived into as future realities. Either way, there always seems to be discussion and thought put into the words by which we will be identified.
It is interesting to me to see how in the beginning of God’s story (what we Christians call the Bible) God gives the first human community, Adam and Eve, the names by which they will called. Throughout the books of the Story, we first see YHWH and then Jesus changing certain peoples’ names for differing reasons: Abram and Sarai are now Abraham and Sarah; Jacob is now Israel; Saul is now Paul; to name a few. Names seem to be rather important.
Today as I was reading over at Abundant Community I came across the second post in the series on being a neighbor, The Neighbor Challenge #2. In it the author talks about how knowing the names of our neighbors is essential to actually knowing our neighbors. Taking the time to know the name of another demonstrates a tangible way of demonstrating their value. She says
Knowing someone’s name is fundamental to relationship building. It’s the start of our story, and when you take time to learn someone’s name you show you value them.
Your intention of cultivating a knowledge of and relationship with them begins in the simple act of saying, “Hi, I’m ______. Your name is?” Then, and this is crucial, you must actually stop and listen. Listen to your neighbor. You’ll never get anywhere in developing community if you haven’t developed ears that listen.
For far too long we have allowed ourselves to get away with a simple wave or “Good morning” and wonder why relationships aren’t being developed. Those who claim to follow Jesus are not called to merely wave, but to love our neighbors. Love builds community for love springs from the being who is communal love: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Icons of this being, imperfect as we are, we are called to live in community with each other. Hiding behind an anonymous wave just won’t do.
And I think this is the beauty of knowing others’ names that this article brings out. God doesn’t merely wave to us from across the street. No, God came into our neighborhood and took time to know our names because it is intrinsic to the cultivation and development of relationship. God doesn’t just say, “Hey…you…dude from across the street.” No; God says, “Hey Jim. How was your day? I’d love to hear about it.” And then he listens. Beginning with a name breaks down the anonymity so common today and allows us to move towards further discussion and story telling.
So, as Abundant Community has blogged and challenged, I’ll throw it out there as well: Do you know the names of your neighbors? Can you draw your street (a box for every house) and then write the names of those who live there?