The Way I Say His Name

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

For most of my life, the name of Jesus felt strange in my mouth. That should have bothered me more than it did. Oh, I could say his name in a detached and factual way, perhaps in a Bible study, when referring to something he said or did, and it didn’t feel funny. But if the subject was more personal, it was more uncomfortable. I usually substituted the more formal title “Christ” when referring to his involvement in my life. “Christ died for me.” “Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ. That sort of theological conversation was safe; but people who talked about Jesus like he was someone they knew, even a dear friend, made me very uncomfortable.

I knew that Jesus was a real person. I knew that he had come back to life and was still around. I talked about him that way, but I never really felt that I knew him, or could talk to him like a man talks to a friend. It always seemed a bit disingenuous to me to use his name so personally, like casually referring to the President of the United States by his first name. I might do that when trying to be witty and cynical, but certainly Jesus was not one to make jokes about.

This awkwardness with his name he took away the day that he met me in Virginia. It was not that I was exalted to a higher level of familiarity, not that my experience of him was a spiritual achievement that placed me on a first-name basis with him. No; it was instead that his name became truly precious to me for the first time. I could now see how far down he had come to be with me, to save me. Only his impossible mercy had given me permission to speak to him as a friend. His name was safe in my mouth because I would say it in awe, in a sort of dazed wonder that he would let me say it at all.

I do forget sometimes. I dread the times that I become dull, and I do not feel that wonder and admiration when I say his name. It bothers me now, and I am slowly learning to heed the warning and pull myself away from the distractions of busyness or bitterness and let him remind me of who he is for me.

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