Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Lent, Day 7: His name is John
When our twins were born, we knew that we would name them Paul and Samuel. We envisioned having them together right after they were born, seeing them and deciding which would be named which. However, because of complications with breathing, the first baby was whisked away immediately. An hour and 14 minutes later, the second baby was born, seemingly healthy, so we thought it would be just a few minutes until they would be together and we could name them. But while the first baby proved fine, the second was himself whisked away to the Neo-Natal intensive care unit because of low blood sugar. It would be 36 hours or so before Shelly would meet him. We wanted to be all together for the naming so delayed the event as long as possible. However, the hospital staff did not like referring to the boys as Baby A and Baby B and so finally we relented and named our boys though one was temporarily in absentia.
To properly care for our babies, the hospital staff needed to know who they were, to say their names as they changed them, cleaned them, gave them medicine. It was important to their service. For us, we wanted to see them together to discern who was who. Somehow, however, immediately upon naming them, they were who they were and we have not doubted ever that Paul was Paul and Samuel was Samuel.
Elizabeth's baby was born into a world that had strong traditions of naming. It was clear to all at his circumcision that he should have a family name, even his father's name. While Zechariah sat by (holding the baby?), mute, Elizabeth said "No. His name is John." Confused at her breach from tradition, those present turned to Zechariah, expecting him to see it their way. 'But he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And all of them were amazed.' (Luke 1:63).
Just as his purpose was pre-ordained by God, so was the baby's identity. He wasn't going to be what his family or his community would make of him, but what God had determined for him. Perhaps this should be true for all of us but the difference is that from the outset everyone knew John was God's person.
As I follow John this Lenten season, I want to learn from his story that my identity comes from God. God may use my family, my community, my world to forge who I am (or he may not) but he – not others and not myself – has the final say on who I'll be.