For most of us, our name was the first lie we were ever told. Many of our parents or guardians, good intentioned as they might have been, looked at us with their heads full of ideas of who we were and who we were to become and said, “Let’s name him or her _____.” And from that moment on that’s how we were identified. At first, we could not distinguish the sounds that we would come to know as our name from any other sounds. But over time, as those particular sounds became associated with the meeting of our needs or helping to ensure our survival, we came to accept those sounds as part of us. And in fact for many us, we have actually become our names. After all, when asked who we are, more often than not those very sounds assigned to us at birth are what we utter.
Some of us are what some would consider lucky in the name department. Even if there is no relation at all, if your last name is something like Rockefeller, Wozniak, or Pitt-Jolie just the association alone could open doors for you even if it is just a conversation starter. On the other hand, if your parents were the type of people who saw no problem with naming you something like Adolf Hitler, Freddy Kreuger, or Beelzebub, it wouldn’t matter how nice you are, people familiar with the the infamy of those names would take a step back when talking to you. Then in between these extremes of names you have all of the familial, social, and cultural associations that come with our monikers that we regular folk have to deal with. For example, let’s say that you were named after someone in your family that someone didn’t like. Well, it is not too difficult to imagine that the person who held disdain for the one after whom you were named may find it challenging not to look for similarities among you and their rival. And there you have it, an innocent child born into a lie from day one. Just doesn’t seem fair does it? And we’re just talking about associations with names. After our names have sunk in then there are all sorts of association with which we must continue to contend if we are to hold onto just a glimpse of the person we truly were when we entered the world.
When I was a child, I had a difficult time accepting my name. Even after I was able to talk and even read, I still couldn’t understand why people kept calling me “Pedro”. Seriously. Well, into my school age years, whenever people would call me this name, in the back of my mind I would frustratingly think, “WHY DO THEY KEEP CALLING ME THAT?!” It was as if I was aware that this was not really my name, but rather something people were calling me just to get my attention. My experience was that when no one called out to me I was fully being who I am. But as soon as they called out, “Pedro” like some magic spell where a person is changed from a human into something like a toad, I was reduced to whatever the callers thoughts were about this “Pedro”. I don’t know if this makes any sense to you readers. Perhaps a better illustration would be something like how Kunta Kinte from the book Roots by Alex Haley, grew up knowing himself by his true name, but then had “Toby” thrust upon him by a system that had no interest in who he was, only in who they wanted him to be.
In the book of Jeremiah, God tells the young prophet to be, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” What if that is true for all of us? What if the person God knows us to be–the person we were when we came into this world–is the person we were always intended to be. What if “underneath” all of these layers of association that person still remains, untouched and undefiled by the world that knows not who we are? And what if accessing that true being that you are is just a thought away? These are questions I asked myself when I first heard this scripture. I decided then and there that I wanted to know myself as the person God knows even before a body was associated with my being. My strongest desire is to know myself as I am. And the closest route I can think of to know this is to go back to the Source.
Friends, We are all children of God. Despite how we might perceive ourselves right now or the conditions that may be appearing in our consciousness we are not less than the person we were when we came here. We cannot uncreate ourselves. We can only choose to deny the gift that God the Giver gives. Fortunately, it is never too late to be born into God’s wealthy family. If you don’t know yourself to be a child of the Creator of All then perhaps you might consider that you were switched at birth. I know that it may be difficult to accept. The greatest temptation to accepting this gift is the temptation to blame those who came before us–those who may have involuntarily led us to forget who we are because they forgot who they are. (Like the slave who beat Kunta Kinte.) But this is folly, because to blame anyone is to deny ourselves the power to reclaim our true lives and our inheritance. This is the light of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, loving our enemies, and giving to those who cannot repay us. In order to see our innocence, we must accept the innocence of our brothers and sisters, which in some small way sets a portion of them free from the lie of who they aren’t and sets ourselves free to the same degree.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Imagine that in this one statement you are graced with the gift to set us all free.