What’s in a name? Why do names matter? Do names matter to God?
When I got my flock of chickens as a fledgling farmer I made the conscious choice not to give them names. I know that it is all the rage to grace them with beautiful names like Petunia and Penelope, and many consider their backyard chickens pets so names seem appropriate. I certainly do dote on my mine and care for them dearly, but I read something that seemed like wise advice that discouraged me from giving them names.
After scouring countless websites, chat forums, and Facebook discussions about chickens and predators I was convinced my poor little fowl would succumb to a gruesome death at the jaws or claws of a variety of predators here in central Texas: coyote, fox, raccoon, snakes, and the most likely on my property: hawks. One woman commented on a chat forum that she viewed her chickens as a flock and not individuals so when, or if, something bad happened to one of them she would not be heartbroken. Therefore, she did not give them individual names.
To be really honest, mine all pretty much look the same so I figured trying to name them all would be an exercise in futility anyway. But, I also wanted to be a wise farmer momma and not be crying all the time over eaten and mauled chickens. I set out determined I would not name them.
The One That Stood Out From the Flock
But, that one little girl really stood out.
She’s smaller and lighter colored than the others, and her personality is a stand out as well. I am convinced she’s more likely a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Buff Orpington than a straight Rhode Island Red like my other hens. She is fiercely independent and is always the one to go a little farther from the safety of the coop where she is routinely rewarded with snakes, scorpions, and little mice! The other hens get jealous when they see her catches and chase her trying to steal her goodies, but this girl took the risk and the rewards are all hers!
Not a Rule Follower
She also doesn’t abide by the “I’m not a pet” rule. She follows me around the yard when I do any yard work or gardening, eagerly waiting for me to turn over a rock to reveal a grub hiding in the soft dirt. She is also forever trying to get in my kitchen, rocking on the rocker on the porch, and dives head first into the chicken scratch barrel. She even comes when I call her! Because of her tenacity and pluck, I decided I would name her. I held a naming contest on Facebook and the winning name that was voted on was Kelly Cluckson. The winner received a jar of my honey as well so stay tuned for more contests on Facebook and Instagram!
Kelly has lived up to her namesake: she believes that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (scorpions and snakes!) and no one can hold her back – she ain’t got time for that! I’m also happy to report that after 7 months we have yet to have any casualties from predators. This encouraged me to not always give in to the fear of the worst that can happen. Sure, it’s important to be informed, but don’t let risk and fear hold you back from pursuing reasonable goals or activities.
So What Is It About a Name?
This got me thinking, why is it that if we name something it becomes so much more personal to us? I guess it’s because we are like our Creator. God says He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Psalm 147:4 He knows all the stars in the heavens and calls them by name!
And therefore, His love for each one of us is of such a magnitude that we cannot fathom it. He knows us intimately because he created us and although our parents gave us our earthly name, the Bible says he has a name prepared for us when we live with him in eternity. We will get new bodies and new names!
God does not just think about us as a flock – his children, He sees each one of us as individuals, each one perfectly and wonderfully made in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13) and called by name. When he died on the cross for the sins of all mankind He did not commit this sacrifice thinking of the mass of humanity as a whole, He did it for each one of us as individuals he desired to redeem and restore.
His love for us is not of the farmer with the flock (although he is our Good Shepherd), his love for us is One Creator to one heart. Did you know that he even knows how many hairs are on your head? (Luke 12:7) and even if that is metaphorical and not literal (but seriously, He’s God so that’s not a big deal for Him, right?) it’s still a picture of how much He cares for you and knows you intimately – that’s a word picture for you to tuck in your heart on days you feel insignificant.
This is an encouraging song to remind you that God knows you by name! This song became an anthem for me during a particularly difficult time a few years ago. It encouraged and humbled me at the same time. Make no mistake, He knows your name.
God Wants Us to Know Him By Name
Think also about the reciprocity of this love that God desires. In Psalm 9:10 it says that God knows those who know His name and trust in Him. God has a name too. In fact, He has many names, as He was known by in the OT Hebrew language. Here are a few and their meanings.
- Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Will Provide
- Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace
- El Shaddai – Lord God Almighty
- Jehovah-Raah – The Lord My Shepherd
These names, when we know them, make the almighty creator of the universe seem so much more personal to us. He’s not the “Man Upstairs”, or “The Big Guy”, or the “Great Spirit” – He’s not a god who overlooks his creation and sees groups and masses. No, no, no, He sees each one of us. He cares for all that concerns us. He cares about the details of your life, your heart, your worries, your dreams, and He wants you to know that He cares for you this way. He wants such intimacy with you that it will take your breath away, it will scare you, it will seem hard to believe….but when you dare to believe that God loves you this way, you will realize you are not an unnamed member of his flock that he hopes does not get devoured by the wolf, you are His Kelly Cluckson and He went to the ends of the earth (in fact to Hell and back) to redeem you.
The Power in a Name
You can be sure that when I go outside now to check on my hens, I look for Kelly first. And that night when there were 11 hens accounted for in the coop and the missing number 12 was Kelly Cluckson, you know I marched around the property with my flashlight checking all the barns and the garage until I found her. I scooped her up and talked softly to her, reminding her that I worry about her and that I didn’t want harm to come to her so she needed to make it back to the coop each night before sunset.
Kelly sometimes get distracted when she’s out foraging or having an adventure and once the sun begins to set she gets disoriented and instead of making her way back to the coop, she hunkers down wherever she is for the night. This is a chicken’s instinct but it leaves her vulnerable to the dangers that lurk in the night. I’ll never let her stay out all night because harm could come to her. I think we all have a little Kelly Cluckson in us, don’t you? I know I get distracted by the shiny things around me and forget to heed my Savior’s call to get back to the safety and fulfillment that He provides for me.
God cares so much more for you than I could ever care for Kelly Cluckson. I type across this keyboard and my mind grasps for the words to convey to you how much He loves you but they are not accessible to me. But His word is and His Holy Spirit works to reveal to your heart and spirit this kind of love. The kind of love that calls you by name, that has prepared a special name for you that will be your restored and perfect name to match your restored and perfect body. The kind of love that gave all for you.
For now, you can rest in the truth that your soul can be restored in Him when you call upon His name. After all, He knows those who know His name and trust in Him, and He knows you by name!
Still Not Convinced?
If this kind of love is hard for you to fathom, just begin to think upon it a little each day until your mind and heart are flooded with His love and grace. A relationship takes time to grow. Trust builds over time as we reach out and test. In Psalm 34:8 God invites you to do so:
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
I know He loves you so much more than I could love that little scorpion-eating Kelly Cluckson! ~ Mary
Need more hope in believing that God cares for you? Check out this story.