My name is Paul.
I like my name. My parents named me after the New Testament apostle. That’s pretty cool. In fact, my middle name is David, after the Old Testament king. So I have reason to be doubly arrogant about my name, right?
Well, not exactly.
For much of my adult life, I have lived more along the lines of Paul while he was still known as Saul—persecuting those who disagreed with him because he was certain he was right and he was unwilling to change. I have lived more like the David who had an affair and then arranged for the woman’s husband to be killed.
The only thing that could have made this whole name thing complete is if my parents gave me a second middle name, Jonah (read more about that here).
As a father of three, I appreciate the process of naming children.
As a child, I appreciate the name my parents gave me.
As a Christian, I love the fact that God knows my name.
There is this one Gospel account in the New Testament when Jesus had already risen from the grave and He walked up to Mary. When she saw Him, she thought He was the gardener. But when Jesus said, “Mary,” she knew who He was.
A few nights before that occurred, Simon made a confession that he believed Jesus was the Son of God and Jesus said, “I will call you Peter.”
My name is Paul and I am an alcoholic. I love that when I attend 12 Step recovery meetings, everyone introduces themselves by their first name. The anonymity principle of AA is often misunderstood. It is not anonymity to protect the identity of people attending meetings; it is anonymity intended to level the playing field. When I go to a meeting, I am Paul the person in recovery. In that hour, nothing else matters. All I am focused on is strengthening my sobriety by sharing my journey with other people who are there for the same reason.
I love hearing the names of people at meetings.
At an AA meeting, it is easy to be known as Paul the alcoholic. Because everyone expects that.
There have been times, however, in churches when I have not liked being known as Paul the alcoholic. Because in that setting, the label became a negative. When people said my name there was a sense of disappointment, betrayal, even anger. While on a level playing field when meeting with others in recovery, I found myself put down when meeting with other Christians.
And here is what I hate to admit: I am guilty of doing the same thing. There have been times in my life when someone walked through the doors of the church and I identified them by the things they have done.
But God knows their name.
And God knows my name.
And God knows your name.
And if you listen closely, you will hear God say it. And instead of thinking it’s the gardener, you will realize you are in the presence of God. The God who loves you and who knows your name.
Let’s try to follow that example: what is your name? Let’s get to know each other.