One of my greatest pleasures in all the world is reading to my children. I dreamed of it often during the long months of waiting, and as soon as our Olivia arrived, I began with a passion. Before she could speak, she was listening. Strapped in the swing or bouncy seat, with nowhere to go, I would read story after story. As our family grew, we would all pile into the bed at night and explore a world of adventures together. Whether we fought side by side with the Pevensies for the glory of Aslan and the protection of Narnia, got lost in the big city at Christmas with a mischievous little monkey, or followed the yellow brick road with Dorothy and her companions—we would soak it all in and live the perils and triumphs of our beloved characters. As all good stories do, these would resonate with something deep within our hearts.
The glories and griefs—the joys and sorrows—would whisper to us of a greater story. A story that is written on our very hearts. I was reminded of this recently while reading to my children—yes, I still read to them. You see, my middle son has learned his mother’s weakness well and knows how to use it to his advantage. Want to stay up later than your usual bedtime? Ask mom to read you a story. Make it a good one that she has never read herself, and you’re guaranteed at least an extra hour. (It’s sad, but true.)
This tale was that of a family—a family living in a broken and dark world. A world once bright and beautiful and safe, now filled with fear and hate because of a very powerful enemy. This enemy’s skill lay in capturing those who were hopeless and afraid, feeding them lies of safety and power, and changing them into something completely different. Something dark and without life. The final step to this awful death of sorts was being given a new name. It was in this new name, a total loss of identity of who they were created to be, that the final blow was delivered. One of the family members gets captured—having chosen to leave the others and do things his own way. He is rescued, but severely broken. He will never be the same. Unsure of who he is or what he is meant to do, his family continues to care for him. Day after day, his mother sits on the edge of his bed and asks him a seemingly simple question, “What is your name?” It is only when he remembers his true name—who he was meant to be—that he is healed.
I thought about this emphasis on names and identity and was reminded of spiritual truths (which was no doubt the author’s intention). All the world around us is on a ceaseless quest for identity. Who are we? What is our purpose? How can we make a name for ourselves? We search for the answers to these questions in our careers or our talents. The enemy tells us they can be found in money or power, our looks or influence. But just as in the story, these “new names” are not who we were meant to be, and they lead only to death.
In a world where so much emphasis is placed on “you do you,” “be the best you,” or “find yourself,” we must remember the very first question and answer in catechism: “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong to God.” Perhaps the question we most need to answer is not “Who we are” but rather “Whose we are.” It is only when we remember that our true identity and purpose is not wrapped up in ourselves but in the God who made us and redeemed us that we will find the answers to our heart’s greatest questions. It is when we learn that our purpose is not to make a name for ourselves but rather to display the glory of God that true fulfillment will come.
“Christ our hope, in life and death, we cast ourselves on Your merciful, fatherly care. You love us because we are Your own. We have no good apart from You, and we could ask for no greater gift than to belong to You. Amen.”
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8