Shakespeare famously penned the words, "What is in a name?" His question wasn't looking for an answer but if it were I would argue that there is a magnitude of importance in a name.
Just ask Teresa. I met Teresa at the food pantry on a sub-zero, frigid Erie, PA morning in January. The streets were coated in ice and the turnout at the food pantry was a reflection of the brutal weather conditions. Not even the hungry were venturing out to receive free food. The streets were treacherous and the wind was whipping. Walking even just a few blocks could put even the hardiest of souls at risk for frostbite.
Despite the terrible conditions some tough spirited men and women made their way to the food pantry. I was heartbroken to see some people shivering in flimsy jackets and threadbare gloves. There was pain on the faces of so many that came through the line that day. The winter took its toll not just on the body but on the soul, too. Every time the door to the food pantry opened, letting in a blast of frigid air, I was reminded that out in those conditions at that very moment someone was treading on foot through the bitter cold to reach the pantry. My entire morning was spent in a silent prayer for protection for the homeless and destitute just trying to survive this winter.
There was despair hanging over the food pantry like a gray storm cloud. That is until a woman in a black fuzzy hat and huge puffy coat made her way to the front of the line. I looked up to take her number and was greeted with a beaming smile and bright eyes. "Good morning, sweetheart!" she said. Her voice was full of joy and her spirit was one of praise and thanksgiving. She was a light shining in the dark, a warm breeze on that freezing cold morning.
That is how I came to know Teresa. For the rest of her time at the food pantry Teresa and I talked about her grandsons, both of whom she is raising. She told me about how they love "Cheese-Its" and are ravenous snackers. By the time we had completed our circle around the food pantry Teresa felt like an old friend. I waved goodbye as she ventured back out into the frozen Erie streets.
The following week the temperatures were up and so was the line at the food pantry. I was busy all morning taking visitors through the line and restocking cans and boxes. As I was kneeling on the floor replacing rolls of toilet paper I heard a familiar voice. It was Teresa. A smile came to my face as I looked up and waved saying, "Good morning, Teresa!"
"She remembered my name!" Teresa said in a stunned yet excited voice.
"Of course I did!"
"I can't believe she remembered my name."
Our exchange that morning was just that brief but in that moment I learned the answer to the question, "What is in a name?"
In a name is value. A name says, "You are special." A name conveys worth. When someone calls out your name it is a reminder that you are one-of-a-kind. You are known. You are precious. You have significance.
I haven't remembered every person's name at the food pantry. There are some I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten but there is One who never forgets a name. Our Heavenly Father knows each one of us by our unique and special name. We are precious and valuable to Him, so much so that He knows us by name and calls us by name. Our name is so special and significant to God that when we come to know Him He writes it in His Book of Life.
Isaiah 43:1 tells us just how special each and every name is on the lips of God. "Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'"
Our name reminds us to whom we belong. God. Our Abba, Father who longs to be with us in eternity and loves us conditionally is calling us to Himself, calling each of us by name. Do you hear Him?