It’s embarrassing how many names I know, of people I’ve never met.
As the product of my generation, I spent many hours after school watching an assortment of eminently forgettable TV shows, only they must not be that forgettable since I can sing the intro songs, as well as give the names of the people who played the various characters.
While this is sad, what is even sadder is that I am not alone, and a whole new generation of children is wasting away hours in front of a screen, learning a whole new crop of forgettable names and eminently forgettable TV shows and movies.
Names are actually precious things, given to many of us by parents who spent hours wrangling over the perfect appellation for their son or daughter. Some people are named after relatives. Others are named quite creatively, with spelling that will make future elementary school teachers stumble over pronunciation.
Regardless of how or what we are named, our names matter — not because they are well known, not because we are famous, not because everyone recognizes our name — but because our names are part and parcel to who we are, and God knows those names.
Recently, in the book of Jeremiah, I ran across four unusual names — Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur — and if you don’t recognize these names, or can’t pronounce them, don’t feel bad. neither did I, and neither can I.
But the thing about these names is that, at the time Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur lived, they were pretty impressive people — in their own eyes at least — because they were important administrators in the household of the last king of Judah in Israel, Zedekiah. So to them, and to many people around them, their names mattered more than most, because they were more influential and powerful than most.
This is a way of thinking that does not change through history, and in present day, we see all sorts of names — most of them more pronounceable — of people who are more influential and powerful than most, who consider themselves, and their names, more important than most.
So also does the media, because it does its best to put these names, and their words, before the rest of us, and if we don’t watch ourselves, we will tend to think — along with the influential and powerful people — that they really are more important than the rest of us, simply because we know their names.
But quite fortunately, in the eyes of the One Person who truly matters, God, there is no favoritism (Romans 2:11) based upon income, education level, family connections, or media hype. He has called us by name, and we are His. (Isaiah 43:1)
Your name matters. You matter. And while you may hang your head, sometimes, because your name isn’t as well known as the least of these that shows up in a media magazine, or because those around you do not snap to attention when your name is called out, don’t. When you’re tempted to wish that you, too, could be rich and famous and powerful and influential and . . . important, say to yourself Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur (if you can remember them, that is) and understand that, while they were moderately well known in their own time and place, and while they’re even listed in a book that millions of people read — nobody now knows their names.
It doesn’t matter if men know your name. It matters that God does.