To Be Called by NameDec 03, 2017 06:02AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Isaiah 43:1, ESV
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Our house is full of new pet excitement right now. After researching lionhead rabbits for two months, we found a lovely breeder on a small farm in Nowheresville, New Hampshire, about an hour north of us.
Four years ago, we brought home our first family pets: two Shih Tzus (lion dogs). We are apparently obsessed with animals with a lion resemblance! Earlier this summer, we rescued a few tadpoles from our pool that are now tree frogs in a terrarium. And now a bunny. I did not grow up with pets, so the fact we now have five still amazes me. And while my Shih Tzus' names were chosen before they were born, my frogs still don’t have names. My younger son insists that they are full-grown before we attempt to give them specific identities.
And this bunny. This fluffy, double-maned, dwarf-sized rabbit is basically a ball of fur with feet and ears. It is a black and gray beauty, and despite our hours of brainstorming names like Truffles, Mistletoe, and Avocado, it remains nameless.
When I asked my daughter how she chose this particular baby rabbit from the four does that were available, she said: “It was the softest. That is what I wanted.” And a memory from 13 years ago completely snapped into place for me: a tiny ten month old crawling down the hall toward the only shag carpet we had…in the bathroom, collapsing victoriously onto the edge where she pet that carpet over and over again as her reward for all the strenuous drag of her body. At that moment, I thought: “God made this bunny for her. He knew she would identify its fluff as hers when they met.”
But I will tell you something. The bunny knows my daughter’s scent, her light touch, her cuddle, the warmth of her cheek against its side. In just a few days, it anticipates her cupping her hands to support its baby hind legs. It hears her rustle in the loft bed above her cage and knows its owner is there. It is secure and can snuggle down for the night. Hay and water will be there in the morning.
What I find so difficult is talking to the frogs and bunnies but having no clear way to address them. I feel like somehow it holds part of my affection back, that until they are associated with a name, I cannot fully give my heart to them. Somehow a name distinguishes them from other wild creatures running and hopping around my yard.
And I think of Adam, the first man, who was given the awesome responsibility of naming each species. How we, as God’s image, were made for that: to be caretakers, to have dominion over the animals, and to know the thrill of calling them by name.
John 10:3, ESV
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
I can’t say for sure if our rabbit will know her name or simply the inflection with which we speak it, but I do believe our voices will become a comfort, familiar, safe.
How about us? When we hear God’s voice (either His leading in our lives through prayer or His Holy Word), do we recognize it as a source of comfort—or of fear?
Are we sheep who want to follow that voice, that calling on our lives?
Did you know that God named us before we took our first breath in this world?
He is that intimate and personal with each one of us.
Isaiah 49:1, ESV
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.
Not only did He name us before our parents met us, but He also paid the ransom for our sin. He bought us white garments, keeping our name eternally secure in the book of life. Our name is so important to Jesus that He will speak it, accounting for us as His own, before His Father and the angels!
Revelation 3:5, ESV
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
And what about God’s name? While we didn’t give it to Him, it holds tremendous significance in our lives. According to John, if we believe in the name of Christ, we can become children of God. It is our inheritance; it signifies that we were born of God.
John 1:12-13, ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
To be called by name is an extremely personal knowing:
God calls Israel by name, and in so doing, He declares them His own.
The Gatekeeper or Shepherd calls His sheep by name—and they come.
God names us within our mother’s womb. Before my official arrival on this planet, He called me "Bonnie," His child, His own.
When we receive Him as our Savior, Jesus confesses our name to His Father.
And while He knows us by name, we, too, know Christ as we place our trust in Him—
—and believing in His beautiful name saves us.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.