Carving out our name
I’m sitting on my back deck enjoying the beautiful hints of early Autumn in Bismarck. I like to sit here sometimes when I’m working and the weather is nice. I’m planning ahead at the things I will be teaching at BCC over the next several months. And I happen to be listening to one of my favorite albums August and Everything After by the Counting Crows.
One line caught my attention like it never had before. “Round here we’re carving out our names.” And I think about that for a minute. How much of what I do, how much of what humans do, is an effort to “Carve out our names?”
Names are commonly engraved in wedding rings, office doors, and tombstones. Places where we either spend our lives or everything after them.
But don’t we sometimes try to metaphorically carve out names for ourselves wherever we are? We want to accomplish something or be recognized. For instance, I want to be a part of leaving a legacy of faith whether in my family, through planting churches in Central and Western North Dakota, or raising up pastors younger than me that will continue to preach the gospel after I’m gone. Now at first glance you might think that’s noble. But make no mistake, that is as much about me as it is about the gospel.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think we can all be like that. I kinda think all of us who discover a passion and a giftedness in life want to leave our own unique stamp on that particular sphere of creation. What researcher doesn’t want to be the next Marie Currie or Nikola Tesla, leaving their name behind them for centuries? What writer doesn’t want to be the next Shakespeare or Steinbeck?
I think we all want to carve out our names and leave a lasting impression on something or someone. Maybe for you it relates to your social network (real or media related). Perhaps this is the source of that “Mom Guilt” I always hear so much about. I think at our core, we all want to carve our names out someplace.
I think this desire to carve out our names dates back to a story in the Bible about the people wanting to make a name for themselves. That was their stated purpose at Babel. They wanted to erect a tower or a monument of some sort that would surpass anything mankind had seen and would stand as a name for themselves for all ages. As the story goes, God rejected this impulse, destroyed their monument, and scattered mankind in order to prevent that from happening. Then in the next chapter God calls Abram and tells him he will make a name for him.
So what I learn from that is that we have a strong desire to carve out a name for ourselves. And this desire is good and right because we are made in the image of our maker. But I think this desire must be ordered correctly within the scope of reality. Wherever we carve out a name for ourselves, it helps to remember that ANOTHER NAME should be carved out above ours in uppercase letters.
It boils down to intention, we are told in the Bible that the heart is deceitful above all things. I suppose that’s why in a profession like mine it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you are focusing on a higher name, but we preachers need to be really careful about that. I worry more than I should about my own name too.
How do we all, regardless of the realm we have devoted ourselves to, remember that our efforts at carving out a name for ourselves is useless? How do we turn our energies toward carving out a name for our maker in larger letters than our own?
We remember two important details
1) The world is his and everything in it.
God isn’t only interested in your eternal soul, he is interested in your lawn, your hobbies, your screen time, your job and everything else you do. Everything belongs to him and he actually cares about all of it. So whether you are standing on a street corner preaching to anyone who will listen, or manning a remote fire station in northern Alaska, it matters to him. Will you do all things to the glory of God?
2) So are you
You are not your own. The fingers that are typing this on my screen right now are not “my fingers” they are his. As was said long ago, “I am not my own but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” Now, you may be thinking sure, sure, yep, Uh huh, I know all that. But here’s the thing – if you are trying to carve out a name for yourself, you don’t get it.
And I’m not being judgy, I don’t get it either. My own heart reveals that more often than I’d like.
But the more we convince ourselves that we belong to him, the less likely we are to forget that any carving we do should be about him.
Besides, we’re all gonna be dead and gone soon anyway. We might as well carve out a name that will be recognized long after our life times. The name “Jesus” is a pretty sure thing. We are told that at that name, every knee in all of creation will kneel. That’s a name worth carving out.
My own? Probably not so much.