Ask any of my friends: for a few weeks now I have set up camp firmly and happily on my soapbox. About nicknames. Of all things.
Do you want to know why?
I understand that people love nicknames. One of my roommates has said that she feels loved best when people use nicknames to address her. I love that. I’m glad that she can pinpoint when and why she feels loved by people. I want everyone to feel loved.
I don’t love nicknames, though. To me, nicknames can be divisive. They put some on one level and some on another. I realized this when I noticed, over and over again, my friends and myself using certain nicknames for each other that proved we were closer to each other than another might be. I noticed my friends and myself also saying things like, “That person called me _____. Only certain people can call me that. You can only call me _____ if you are really close to me.” This endearing way of addressing one another sent a message to outsiders: “We have something you don’t. We have walked through parts of life together that you have not. You are not allowed in.”
Jesus let everyone in. Jesus walked through every part of life imaginable with humans. Jesus visited our planet so that he might show us perfect and blameless love, not more ways to divide ourselves against each other.
I pray that my actions may point back to Christ and his inclusion of all into the family of God. I do not believe calling my friends certain names, with the intention of proving I am closer to them than another, fulfills that purpose. Nicknames can be defining. I don’t want to alter anyone’s view of identity in Christ by the terribly arbitrary decision of whether or not I call them a potentially-endearing, potentially-exclusionary nickname.
In Kalley Heiligenthal’s song Ever Be, from Bethel Music’s new album, she sings:
You will have your bride:
Free from all her guilt
And rid of all her shame,
And known by her true name
I have clung to this line. Jesus calls us by our true names, back to him, through his sacrifice on the cross. If this is not a defining moment in how we view our identities, we’re doing something wrong. Our identities are so much more than who we allow to call us nicknames and who we feel comfortable enough nicknaming.
Our identities are firmly rooted in the sufficiency of Christ. If I need to be called a nickname by my friends, I first need to look at my relationship with Christ: Am I fulfilling belonging needs with flawed and broken humans more than with the Creator and orchestrator of my life, the one who loves me and calls me back to himself?
I pray that I might desire and seek first the name he calls me, and all others who love him: child of the King. There is no distinction. We are all his children. The distinction is in the intimacy of each of his relationships with his children, which need not be broadcast to the world by our sad hearts looking for affirmation. Praise Jesus that our source of true affirmation is so holy and eternal!