“But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit….”
Acts 13:9 (NRSV)
Names and Nicknames I’ve been given by others over the years:
Thomas DiGomas “Don’t Give a Damn” Nostrum
I find names and the monikers we give one another fascinating.
I find it fascinating that a man born and raised as Saul became known to the world and to history as Paul. I have written several posts over the years about names. I find that names can be powerful metaphors. Changes in lives paralleled with a change in names is a somewhat recurring theme across all of God’s Message. Abram becomes Abraham. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul.
The interesting thing about Saul’s change is that it happens abruptly in today’s chapter. It just happens with no explanation. Scholars assume that the Hebrew “Saul” gave way to the more Greek “Paul” as his ministry switched from preaching to Jews to preaching to Greeks. It is a logical and simple assumption. The fact that the meticulous and detailed archivist, Luke, does not explain the change leads me to believe that even Luke thought that the reason for the change would be apparent to his readers.
But it’s fascinating to know that “Paul” to the Greeks meant “little.” Paul the persecutor and executioner of early Christians considered himself the “least” (or “littlest”) of the apostles. Paul alluded to physical afflictions that humbled him and left him feeling “little” and weak, but trusting in God’s strength.
This morning I’m asking myself: “What’s in a name?” and “What’s in a name change?” A name is a metaphor. It’s a label placed upon us, and as such it holds a certain meaning.
When I teach customer service skills to my clients, one of the skills I talk about is the importance of using the customer’s name in your conversation. Names imply relationship, and you want your customers to feel that they are more than just another “customer,” “account,” or “call” you have to deal with that day. They are a person who is known. You communicate that by calling them by name.
The truth of the matter is that as a relationship grows and becomes more intimate we not only use each other’s names but nicknames and pet names emerge that speak to an even deeper level of knowing and being known. The opposite is also true. As a relationship breaks down, people stop using one another’s names and refer to each other with simple pronouns like “they.” Then, derogatory nicknames emerge that communicate our negative perceptions of the person.
In today’s chapter, God tells Israel that they are “dearly held treasure” and it immediately reminded me of my own dearly held treasure: my wife, and my daughters. In fact, “treasure” is a special word between Wendy and me; It has incredible depth of meaning in our relationship. What makes it special I will leave between the two of us, but suffice it to say that when I read that God affirms that His children are “dearly held treasure” I feel something very deeply because of the connotations that “treasure” make with the most intimate human relationship I’ve ever experienced.
Today, I am thankful for dearly held treasure. I am thankful that I can treasure my wife, my children, my family and my friends. I am grateful that God treasures me.