On a cold Saturday morning, my little family joined my larger church family for a worship gathering on the land God recently allowed us to purchase. It was special in a lot of ways, not the least of which being that my daughter was able to stay with us as we worshiped (rather than going to children’s ministry where she usually is). It must have seemed strange for her. Every time someone saw her, they greeted her enthusiastically by name.
“Hi, Jennifer! How are you, sweetheart?”
“Jennifer! Hey, there! Look at how big you’ve gotten!”
“Can this be little Jennifer?! Hi, honey!”
Over and over it happened that an adult (who she did not know at all) waved and smiled and shook her hand. As she and her daddy walked back to the car for something, she looked up at him and said, “Daddy….how does everybody here know my name?”
“Well, sweetie,” he answered her, “they know Mommy and me, so they know you because of us.”
As he related that to me later, something about it struck me as powerful. People in my community know my daughter not because of who she is, necessarily, but because of her relationship to me. She has not done anything in her four years of life to make a name for herself. She has not developed a relationship with all of them personally. They all feel like they know her simply because they know us – her parents. At this point in her life, her identity is so closely intertwined with ours that knowing us is essentially the same as knowing her.
All issues of “stranger danger” and necessary safety precautions aside, it’s a pretty powerful idea. To think that someone so closely associates her, as a child, with who her parents are is a humbling thought for me as her mother. It also, though, makes me think of my own role as a child.
As I really begin to acknowledge my God-given dream of writing and speaking on a wider scale, my biggest struggle centers around the idea of “making a name for myself.” The reality is that in this world, if you want to be a writer, you need people to read what you’ve written. In order to be a speaker, people need to want to listen to what you have to say. For either of those things to happen, people need to know who you are. It’s kind of an essential first step.
To my way of thinking, though, making a name for myself is entirely wrong. I don’t want a name for myself. I don’t want people to know the name of Jessica. I don’t want my name to become famous, because none of this that I am doing is to my credit. If anything here is worth reading, it is because of Jesus. If anything I say is worth hearing, it is because of Jesus. I cannot claim credit for anything that happens under the banner of this blog or under the bright lights of a stage. None of it is me.
There isn’t much in this world that I can say with certainty, but I have no doubt whatsoever about that. If credit is to be given, it all goes to Christ. I am nothing….do nothing….say nothing without Him. Period. Make no mistake. If you see something good in me, it is Him you’re witnessing.
And so working to make my name known….well, it’s an uncomfortable idea for me. I don’t want anyone to know me for me. I want them to know me for Christ. I want them to know me not because of anything I’ve done but because of who I belong to. I want to walk through every day on this earth with people looking at me and recognizing me not for who Jessica is, but for who Jesus is in me.
Someone recognized me in a restaurant once after hearing me speak in church. As I walked past her table, I heard her whisper, “Mom! Look! That’s the girl from that church we went to Sunday!” The restaurant was crowded and I was bee-lined for the restroom, so I didn’t know who said it and didn’t stop to engage whoever it was. The truth is, though, that while part of me thought it was kind of neat that someone recognized me, I wanted to curl up and hide.
I don’t want anyone to see me. I don’t want anyone to hear me. On my own, I’m just a big noisy mess. What I really want is to walk through a restaurant…a store…my house….the world….and have anyone who sees me recognize nothing but the redeeming, saving grace of Christ at work in me. I don’t want anyone to know me because of me. I want to be known just for who my Father is.
“When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am—that I’m not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn’t abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him.” (Jesus, in John 8:28-29)
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)