Friday, August 9, 2013

I Have a Name

But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
 And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
 But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
 T.S. Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, "The Naming of Cats."

I have a name. It is given me by God, and it is who I am. I cannot speak it. I cannot introduce myself to you by this name. I only know it . . . when I hear it . . . and when I hear it . . . I know myself.

I spend a lot of my life becoming: trying to be a better wife, mother, teacher, friend, writer. I try on personae like putting on clothes. One day I am fun and frivolous and colorful and spontaneous; another day I will be focused and reserved and reflective and subdued. I am many things to many people, and I try to be all things to all people, to save them from trouble or hurt, to help them become their best selves.

In all this service, though, sometimes I begin to feel disconnected. I took a personality survey recently and the results surprised me. I went back and took it again, more than once, each time focusing on a different aspect of me, of how I have behaved in different situations, of how I wish to behave in life. Every profile was distinct; there was no overlap. It would look to an analyst as if several different people had taken the test.

Am I several different people? Do I suffer from multiple personality disorder? No, but I wear many hats – I am called by many names – and by this age I suppose I’ve developed roles around all those costumes. When I start to feel too much like a character and not enough like the actor inside, that’s when I need to hear my true name.

That’s when God speaks it. When I’ve stretched as far from me as I can to become someone I think I’m supposed to be, God reminds me who I am. He says my name, the name only He can pronounce, the name never given to another in all of time and space, and I know. My spirit rings like a tuned bell, full and round and bright and alive, and I take a moment to breathe inside that dome of heavenly sound: my name. Yes, I am someone. I am unique. I am special. I am important.

I am worth saving.

I am who I am, and that is who I am intended to be. He looked at all His creation and called it good, and He created me. I can picture His eyes full of love and concentration, imagining every detail of me. I can hear the music of heaven in His voice as He gives me the seal of approval, a name. Whenever He calls me, if I pay attention, I realize that I am and always have been clay in this Potter’s hand, and that I have value because He says so. He gave me a name, a meaning, a hope and a future. He has plans for me.

I am His.

I do not belong to any of the people I try so earnestly to serve. I am not defined by the roles I play. I am not owned by the hats and scarves and garments I take on to become what I need to be. I have a name that is none of those things.

That name is who I am.

Even if I could speak that name, it would be reckless to do so. If I told you my name, it would be like giving you . . . myself, my destiny, my soul. It is my God-given name and only God can use it.

Sometimes, though – and this is a mystery – sometimes I hear my name spoken in voices I don’t expect. In a piece of music, a certain combination of notes and instruments might strike me so that I feel as if I am part of the song itself. In a story, even an old one, I might meet a piece of truth that is my truth, my heart beating outside of me in a fictional body. In the touch or the words of a friend – or sometimes a stranger – I may hear that resonance, that unique tone that is mine and mine alone, and I realize I am part of a grand symphony more complex than human mind can conceive.

It’s true even if my tone is just the triangle at the end of a coda. I have a unique essence, and I am essential.

I have a name.

Here's a fuller presentation of Eliot's poem, as brought to life by the cast of "CATS."

And HERE is another thought about names. A friend shared this on Facebook today and it was just too much of a coincidence for me to keep to myself.

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