Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's in the name?

I didn’t have much say either in the name my parent’s picked for me or in choosing the family I was born in. My initials were given to me in the beginning as an expression of trust and hope for a life of growth, excellence and service. A life that with each passing day would breathe in meaning and significance, uniqueness and continuity to this phonemic combination that stood for Me.

Year after year I grew into this name. I filled it with passion and experiences, failures and victories. Hopes and dreams. I became very much attached to it. I liked who I was and took great pride in all my accomplishments.

Twenty years into this journey, I hit a major roadblock. I discovered a structural fault in this process of building my name that required not just some cosmetic changes but a major overhaul of the foundation. My life’s blueprint neither included nor even took into consideration the Master Architect, the One and Only God revealed in Jesus Christ. After much turmoil and resistance (for no house can have two masters), I ran out of ammunition and like a blind puppy threw myself into this new identity of a child of God. I became a part of God’s strange, diverse and sometimes seriously weird family. I began to bear a new family name – Christian - entering into the complex, controversial family history carrying some unbelievable promises and privileges and some equally unbelievable baggage.

I still kept the name my parents gave me on the day I was born, discovering more and more each day how who I was and had been fitted in this new identity and new name. I’ve discovered the deaths I was called to die and life I was called to live. More often than not, I begrudged both equally. For grasping truth with my mind, and articulating with my lips, I learned, is not the same as living Him out.

As if my identity seismic shift wasn’t enough trouble to deal with on my own, few years later I was offered to receive a new name. A whirlwind romance and a few years later I became Mrs. S.

Few years after that my husband and I were granted an awesome responsibility of naming another human being. And then another. We talked and researched. We agonized and prayed. With reverence and hope we named our children trusting that their names would become unique expressions of lives of faith, growth, excellence and service to God and mankind. That with each passing day they would breathe in meaning and significance, uniqueness and family continuity to the phonemic combination that stands for ‘CG’ and ‘VG’ respectively. And, through that process, I became Mrs. C’s Mom and Mrs. V’s Mom.

With each layer of identity, with each new name, I experience a profound sense of loss – loss of independence, loss of the sense of control over my life as I take a terrifying step of faith, as I plunge out of the security of familiar and safe into the unknown. But, as I learn to grieve well and loosen my grip on my own life, embracing the paradox of life out of death, I become more of who God intends for me to become. I don’t lose or erase who I was – I build upon what God has graciously, generously imparted into me. Rather than being diminished by the change, I become even more Me! Once the new name begins to sit more comfortably on my shoulders I am amazed afresh by His love and His wisdom towards me.

And year in and year out, as I discern new ways to hold all my names with open hand, I am able to take on more and more of the marvelous mystery of who I am and one day will become – the one of a kind daughter of the One who never changes, whose Name is the only name that will remain forever.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cookie Crumbs for Jesus

Last Sunday my in-laws treated us to a wonderful brunch at Ettore’s European bakery on Fair Oaks Boulevard. The tough decision of the day was choosing between blueberry pancakes and waffles? Omelet or Eggs Benedict? Honey-baked ham or bacon? The waitress recognized us from the church that morning, so we enjoyed a rare privilege of being served on first-name basis. After finishing our food, we lingered for a while, savoring the fullness of the meal we just consumed and light conversation around the table. Satisfied by the former and bored by the latter, our kids wandered off and explored the restaurant, especially the bakery showcase of outrageously tempting desserts. When we finally got ready to leave, our daughter came back with an enormous chocolate chip cookie in her hand. A kind restaurant worker noticed her gawking at the display and I guess, had pity on the ‘poor starving’ child and gave her the cookie. Too full from the lunch, she took few nibbles and deposited the rest in a paper bag, saving it for later when she would be able to enjoy it more. We loaded up the car and were on our way when, at the stop light, we heard a gentle tap on our window. An old, disheveled man in tattered clothes was holding a hand-written cardboard sign,


We all scrambled around the car frantically, but the only food item we had was the half-eaten cookie. We asked our daughter if it is O.K. to give the man the cookie, and she shook her head in agreement.

The light has already turned green as we hurriedly handed the bag to the man, apologizing for the incomplete offering. He received the greasy bag with both hands, his face lighting up like the fourth-of-July fireworks of gratitude. The broad smile revealed haphazard array of teeth in various stages of decay. We rushed off, not wanting to delay any further the waiting line of impatient drivers stalled by the exchange. His exuberant words of thanks and blessing trailed behind us in the wind.

Impressed by our daughter’s generosity, I turned around to tell her how much we appreciated her giving spirit. But, instead of a glow of self-satisfaction, her face was contorted with anguish and washed with tears.

What’s wrong?!!! I was in shock, wondering if we might have overstepped her personal boundaries by volunteering her cookie away. Are you sad that you parted with your cookie?

Nooooo…. She wailed. I… am… saaad… I… am… sad.. that I didn’t have more to give to that man…

Her sobs continued on for several minutes, interrupting the silence that descended on our car.

Her words pierced my heart. We were still full from the tremendous bounty of God’s table. We waddled out of the restaurant and rolled into our car. At the next intersection Jesus knocks on our window, unshowered and unkempt, in need of daily food. I see a half-eaten chocolate-chip cookie handed to the hungry as a noble sacrifice, deserving applaud and affirmation. She sees the insufficiency of her offering and is broken for not being able to do more for the homeless man.

I think I deserve a pat on the back every time I offer God the leftovers from the table of my indulgences. But, when I see Jesus face to face, the grief will be not over parting with crumbled chocolate-chip cookies of this life’s goods, but over all the missed opportunities I had to show His generosity and love to the least of His brothers.

Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
Matthew 25:40