Sunday, January 22, 2012

He Knows My Name

     As is often the case, I came across this striking wildflower while hiking last summer. Not recognizing it, I snapped a picture, planning to look for it in my field guide when I returned home. After a bit of investigation, my guess would be Great Lobelia, though I can't say that with certainty. I'll eventually get around to checking with a naturalist to see if I've got a postitive ID. I find it incredibly exciting to discover names for the different things I encounter in nature. Beyond nature, I find satisfaction in knowing people by their names. I am that geek who reads through directories and will ask you five times what your name is until I get it. Why is that? I think it can be connected to the desire to know and be known.

     I recently found myself in a postion where someone was trying to envision me without the benefit of a picture. She read my name, Tamra, and thought that perhaps I was black. It's funny how these type of things can jog our memory. This particular speculation took me back twenty plus years to my time in college, where my roomates, having seen my name listed, expected a young lady of color to walk through the door. I've never thought of my name as having a color attached to it, so both of these experiences have been surprising and a bit funny to me.

     These two name-related thoughts brought others to mind as well. All of a sudden, thoughts concerning my name changed from a drip to a steady stream. Remember how you got your name, Tamra? Oh, yeah, that's right. My mom loved the name Meghan and really wanted to name me that. My dad, however had different ideas. He had friends with a darling little girl named Tamara. He thought she was the cutest thing ever and decided if he had a daughter she would carry that name minus the middle "a." He won, of course, and Tamra I am.

     But the thoughts didn't end there. The idea of my dad naming me reminded me of the special circumstances of my birth. You see, my mom somehow managed to sleep through her labor with me. By the time she awoke, there was no way they were making it to the hospital in time. My dad got on the phone with the hospital and a doctor asked him to describe what he saw. The doctor then told him to go wash his hands because he was going to be delivering a baby! Other instructions included: put water on to boil, get sheets, towels, and blankets, and find and sterilize some sort of string to tie off my umbilical cord. And so my father followed the doctor's step by step directions on the phone to bring me into the world. I did not breathe right away despite him cleaning out my mouth three times. Finally, his nerves getting the better of him, he jerked me up by my arm, which elicited a tiny cry from me. All of this happened with my six year old brother waiting in the car to go the hospital.... in the wee hours of the morning... on the Fourth of July. I shake my head in wonder about what an incredible bonding experience that must have been. And, always, disbelief sets in as I remember how my dad left us just five short months later. I always want to say, "What?!!!" It just doesn't make sense.

     So here am I, named after another by the one who insisted, yet didn't stick around. True to my personality, I have tried to look upon my name in a positive way rather than a negative one. I once had an extra credit assignment in the sixth grade consisting of finding the meaning of my name in a baby book. I learned way back then that my name means 'palm tree.' I am floored by the things I have learned over the years about the palm tree and how they relate to my Christian walk.

     To name a few, the palm tree bends but does not break. Tropical storms can pummel and drive it towards the ground, but when the wind and rain subsides it will stand right back up, stronger for the storm. It is flexible and resilient. It grows a deep taproot to seek out water during droughts. It can survive and, yes, flourish despite tough conditions. Even its sap runs deep within it, not close to the surface like other trees. So much about the palm tree speaks of it going deep! It's my desire to go deep with my Lord and those He gives me to love.

It's been neat for me to learn that the palm tree is an evergreen - a picture to me that God's love for me never changes. I also found out that the dust from the desert doesn't stick to the palm tree. In the same way,  the "dirt" of this life is not to cling to me because I am called to put off sin and offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Who would have guessed that He would have so much to say to me about my name?

          Lord, I am awed by the way that YOU picked my name out especially for me through an unbelieving father. You know the end from the beginning, nothing is hidden from You or takes You by surprise. I love how You constantly take things that bring me sadness and faithfully redeem them. You are so very tender with me! I cannot comprehend how you gave me a name before I even came to be, knowing that its meaning would parallel my life. Isaiah 49:16 reminds me that You have written, engraved, or inscribed my name on the palms of Your hands. I am thankful that You call me, Your sheep, by name and have written my name in the Book of Life. You are so very good to me! Finally, thank You for the promise held in Psalm 92:12 that, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree..." Strengthen me to live in a way that will enable me to flourish for Your purposes and glory. In the name of JESUS I pray, Amen.