taking names

Posted: November 30th, 2011 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 15 Comments »

Like every baby before her, she was pale when she came out. Blue, almost. Before her infant screams invited oxygen to pink her cheeks, she already had a name. Her mother, tired from child birth and bleeding from nine-months of preparation, whispered her name before the sweat evaporated from her forehead. Mother and child, a mess of labor, both swollen from the trauma of new life, stared in each other’s eyes. And the new mother whispered her name.

Like every baby before her, she screamed through the night, stealing her mother’s sleep. Cradling her in her arms, she sang her name.

When she was three, she would spin to make her dress float up in a magical circle that made her feel like a princess and she would sing her own name.

The years counted her age, always the same day, always one number older. One by one, her name accumulated baggage. She could reinvent her wardrobe, she could reinvent her friends, she could reinvent her surroundings, but she will always have her name.

All of her mistakes were quilted into the blanket of life she was creating. Pictures were burned into the fabric like stains against her memory. The walls of her life are marked with holes from things she has long since taken down.

Her name on the tongues of others added dirt to the curve of the letters.

She made choices without knowing the future. She set faulty bricks with mortar. She put her name on shady lines with permanent ink. She said things that she cannot take back.

Her name has lost the possibility that was whispered in her mother’s hope. She’s a disappointment losing time and the will to keep starting over. Too many people know her name and memory stains every vowel and hardens every consonant.

What hope do you have when you’ve ruined your name? It’s been called out in courthouses, written in permanent delinquent files, banned from dinner tables, and mixed with the bitter spit of betrayal. What can you do when you can’t be who you hoped you could have been?

She would almost prefer to be called a slut. A slut has one purpose and none of her mother’s dreams. She is more comfortable with ‘Liar’. At least ‘Liar’ knows who she is. Her name has too much pang of wanting to be better.

Even if she lived the rest of her life with a firm grip on her best, her name is still written on the pages of history with every single mistake she has made.

The problem with being new on the inside is that the outside is still there. You can change your sheets, but you can’t change your hands. You can’t stop the flashbacks. You have to constantly remind yourself that your mistakes have been forgiven by the only one who matters. It’s a battle of endurance with a spotty cheering section.

“To the one who conquers … I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” -Revelation 2:17

We have a horrible habit of taking names and attributing damage to them. You may have done a terrible job with your name, you may have equated it with words I’m too intelligent to write. I get it. I know the feeling and I have been called the names. I have done more things that I wish I could take back than things for which I am able to take credit. But, here’s the deal: This life is not all there is.

You are not what you’ve done. Even when trying your best, you’re going to screw it up. You have a new name somewhere out there and not even you can mess that one up.



15 Comments on “taking names”

  1. 1 Dawn R. Justice Phenix said at 12:59 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Serena, thank you for this post, I loved it! I had to share several excerpts from it with friends. I noticed you attached your web link to every word, so when I copy, paste and share, it automatically adds your link. Just want to thank you for doing that too, it's so much easier for me to share your writings that way. God bless you!

  2. 2 serenawoods said at 2:45 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Cool, Dawn. Thanks. 🙂

  3. 3 exegete77 said at 1:04 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Very powerful, Serena. As a pastor I like to emphasize that when we are baptized we have the name of Christ. Sadly we forget that. And as you so well stated, that new name for eternity awaits us as well. When John writes “forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), maybe that includes cleansing our name.Thus titles like “slut” “adulterer” “liar” “thief” give way to the cleansed name.

    Thank you, Serena, for some much need thought and reflection. Blessings in Christ.


  4. 4 serenawoods said at 2:46 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Thank you, Rich. 🙂

  5. 5 nameless said at 12:36 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    I've been wondering for a while now if we are still cleansed from unrighteousness if we commit sins that would give us such names after we are baptized? And if a person is stuck in sin at the time of their baptism (as an adult), were they really "washed clean" or would they need to seek a new baptism after they've been able to repent from that sin? I know that some of these questions are elementary but there is a difference of opinion between several Pastors and Church leaders that I've sought advice from in my area and I'm truly not sure what to believe anymore.

    I appreciate your heartfelt words, Serena and the determination to go after those who've nearly lost all hope of being redeemed.

  6. 6 blanchej said at 1:38 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Amen. A thousand times more.

    This reminds me of the verse in Psalm 16:
    "Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.

    6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance."

    Hitting close to home, thanks for posting this. Definitely an encouragement.

  7. 7 serenawoods said at 2:46 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Good, Blanche. Thanks for sharing the beautiful verse. 🙂

  8. 8 Jason said at 1:41 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Very powerful indeed. It saddens me that so many times in the church we're more interested in sticking labels on people and giving them "names" than we are of helping them find the person God created them to be. It may not be outright scorn…it's usually subtle things like not speaking with them on Sunday mornings, not returning calls or e-mails, not inviting them to participate in church events or outreaches. The supposedly subtle pushing of them to the fringes until they realize they're unwelcome and go away.

    Oh, do we need grace to break out in our churches today.
    My recent post Day 333: Peas and thank you

  9. 9 serenawoods said at 2:47 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    "Oh, do we need grace to break out in our churches today."

    Let's be the difference. 🙂

  10. 10 jbee said at 2:49 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Very well said Jason…..

  11. 11 brookeluby said at 1:44 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Beautiful. Wonderful. Hopeful.
    He's written our name on his heart.

  12. 12 serenawoods said at 2:47 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Thanks, Brooke. 🙂

  13. 13 Blogging well « Kaira Butler said at 9:01 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    […] I spent a few minutes catching up on blogs that are piled up in my reader.  I read an amazing post by Serena today.  I seriously love the way she pours it out.  Her book, Grace is for Sinners, is […]

  14. 14 AprilDel said at 9:11 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    I just read this and bawled my eyes out. thanks for writing. and letting oddballs in.

  15. 15 serenawoods said at 9:22 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    🙂 Thanks, April.

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