Called by Name
That week there were a lot of people. And by ‘a lot’, I mean A LOT. Joel and Roxy (my awesome cousins!) run amazing camps that are always booked full, and when the bookings are by homeschooled, Christian families, it pretty much guarantees a large amount of people. The more the merrier!
These homeschool science camps are held in the Ochoco Mountains of Eastern OR. They use a large facility, with buildings upon cabins upon bunkhouses upon offices in a maze of paths and scrubby pines. Everyone is spread out, so there are people (kids!) around every corner. We were there for four days, long enough to recognize everybody’s faces, but nowhere near long enough to learn everybody’s names. With the exception of those in your own class, almost everyone was reduced to a generic ‘you’, ‘that girl’, or ‘what's-his-name’.
Our first full day at camp I noticed a certain man and I kept passing each other in one specific spot on my frequent trips back and forth from our room. I recognized him as the dad of the missionary family who were helping in the kitchen. Every time we passed, we’d smile, nod, say “hello”, and keep going. The second day was the same. Finally, after the second or third time that morning, I stopped and stuck out my hand. “We keep passing each other,” I said. “I might as well introduce myself.”
He grinned and shook my hand. “Yeah, I noticed,” he said cheerfully. “I’m Scott.” “I’m Christiana,” I said “You must be staying somewhere around here.” “Yep, we’re somewhere behind the offices.” He squinted at me like he was thinking, but only for a second. “You know what, there are so many people at this camp, I’ll never be able to learn everyone’s names.” “I know it!”
“But let me tell you something – I’m going to know at least one name well! Christiana, isn’t it?” “Yes sir,” I laughed, “Christiana.”
“Well it’s nice to meet you, Christiana,” he said as he turned to go. “See you around Christiana!”
I didn’t think much about it at first. The next time we passed on the stairs, he greeted me by name. At lunch, he was dishing the food, and when I handed him my plate he said, “Hi Christiana!” That afternoon I took a message to Aunt Carol, passing through the dining hall. I didn’t see Mr. Scott wiping tables across the room until my name was called and I turned to receive a cheery wave of a dish rag. And it didn’t stop after an afternoon.
On our way to or from our rooms: “Good morning, Christiana!” Running to avoid being late to class: “Heeellllooo Christiana!” Handing a cup of burnt popcorn to one of the many shadowy figures on the lawn during a movie: “Thank you, Christiana!” Tripping over a metal stake after jumping the stairs: “Are ya okay, Christiana?” Standing in line for hot drinks: “Why, it’s Christiana!” And so on it went, for the next three days. Most of the time I hadn’t even realized he was around before I heard my name. Once while walking past an open kitchen door I was hailed from deep inside the labyrinth of commercial dishwashers and giant stoves. I couldn’t even see him! Another time I was climbing the hill to the main building when my name was literally called out of the air. I spun around in a circle. I was the only person around – unless…I looked up. Some thirty feet above me, Mr. Scott waved down from a boom lift on the side of the road.
Every time I heard my name, I would look up, and smile. It was seemingly such a little thing, rarely more than two or three words, and yet I began to look forward to hearing my name called. If I was tense or concerned about my responsibilities, the sound of my name would make me relax and smile. If I was in a hurry, it would slow me down. If I was exhausted; physically and mentally spent, it cheered me up and gave me a boost of energy. Why?
Obviously that experience, trivial and unimportant as it may seem, had great significance to me. Here I am, ten months later, writing about being called by name.
I believe the key lies within that phrase: called by name.
It wasn’t the pleasure or pride I have in hearing the sounds and syllables that make up my name – it was the significance behind the words. Out of the 200-plus people in the camp, someone had singled me out, choosing to know me by knowing my name; showing that he understands the power and value of names – the importance of knowing who you are and where you belong.
In truth, Mr. Scott showed me in human form one of the amazing attributes of God – the personal love and interest He has in each of His children. He knows each of us by name. And what’s more, God does not know us out of a group of 200 people. He does not even know us out of all the people in the entire world.
God – our Lord Jesus Christ, knows us out of all the people who have been, all the people who are now, all the people who will be and all the people who were never born. He knows you out of all people; past, present, future and eternity.
Isn’t this amazing love?
“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art mine.”
– Isaiah 43:1