Last year a close friend got married and, as a post-wedding treat, I thought that I would take his phone and implement a fiendish plan. We’d lived together before he got married so I knew the name that he affectionately calls his wife and thus was born the best wedding present ever. It was a simple matter of relieving him of his phone and editing the keyboard shortcuts so that whenever he lovingly typed her name, the phone would auto correct it to call her Princess Precious Babycakes La La Boo. You can imagine how grateful they are, as a newly wed couple, that I would provide such a kind service to their marriage. I get occasional texts thanking me for helping him express his affections so well. (Okay, perhaps that’s not exactly what the texts say, but you get the point.) It kept me entertained for a full five minutes and in a generation that finds entertainment in twitter and youTube that equates to a life time.
As childish as my joke was, it hinged on the fact that when we love someone we will so often have a name that only we call them. It’s not just something that happens between partners, I have friends who I call by nicknames no one else uses. If I hear any one else using them I’m likely to get territorial and start marking out an area to warn them to quit it. An affectionate nickname represents something to people, because a name that only you use comes loaded with meaning; it is more than the sum of it’s syllables it is loaded with a collection of memories and an esoteric charm known only to the two people.
I was studying on the theme of identity recently for a message I gave at church, when I read a verse in Revelation about God giving all of His people a new name:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and 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 (ESV)
I’m not going to lie; this confused me at first. The white stone is a historical detail, Pastor Jon has spoken about it before, and it represents our freedom from guilt. In ancient societies to demonstrate acquittal, that no charge or guilt was found upon a person, the jury would give the accused a white stone. You have a white stone? You’re innocent, you can go, there is no debt to pay, no spot or blemish you must account for.
God takes the very symbol of your freedom, the symbol of your innocence, and inscribes on it a name that only you and He will ever know. This can be a bit confusing to understand. I’m thinking that if God is giving me a new name I am going to want to shout about it; you know what I mean, right? Send out change of address cards, update my twitter handle, maybe get a label printed in 96-point Futura announcing the change. But that doesn’t happen. We get this name and it’s private, between Him and us. The night I studied this I picked up a bible I have with devotions written by C.S Lewis and decided to read before bed, this is what Lewis wrote…
“What can be more a man’s own than his new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and Him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?”
– C.S Lewis
I love that. Just like my friend has that name which he and no one else calls his wife, just like I have nicknames for some friends that get their meaning only from the weight of our friendship, so it is with God. He has a name for each of us that is entirely unique and represents his relationship and journey with us. He didn’t create you as a clone, He created you as a beautiful and unique child and He loves you in a way no one else can. There is something so multi-faceted and wonderful about His love that He can love all of us, yet also love each of us in a unique and beautiful way.
God has this name that only you will ever be called and every time He uses that name you will know that He is talking to you, no one else, He is taking that moment to continue the thread that started with creation and runs right through all history: He is continuing his all-consuming love of you. That is how well He knows your identity. That new name is the sum of your experiences together, the journey you have been on to reach Him, the love that He has shown you to get you there. That name means more than anyone other than you and God could ever understand.
So why am I sharing this? What is the relevance to you now of a name you’ll never know until eternity? Because even just knowing that God has one for each of us teaches us so much about how He thinks of us. It’s not a distant and detached relationship but a full on love, with all the affection and emotion that evokes. None of us know what those names will be. (It could even be Princess Precious Babycakes La La Boo. Probably won’t be – and as a bloke I hope it won’t be – but you never know!) One thing you can know is that He knows everything about you and no one will ever love you more.