I’ve read a couple of novels recently where one of the dangers of life is to let someone know your “real name.” Apparently, once your “real name” is discovered, the person (or creature) who knows it has power over you and can use it against you. I’ve also read some things that encourage people to tell their story as a way to both know themselves, and to open themselves to others honestly and meaningfully.
There are things in my story that I don’t want anyone to know. Things that make me cringe when the memories break through cracks in my carefully constructed internal walls. Some are just embarrassing, some are heartbreaking, but every one of them is as much a part of my real name as the things that I’m happy and eager for people to know. Mother, loving, faithful, compassionate, helpful, funny, teacher, writer… those are my real name. Forgetful, lazy, procrastinator, selfish, neglectful, liar, hack… these are my real name too.
My story is filled with moments of grace – snuggles with my children, laughter with my siblings and parents, falling in love with my husband, moments where God has touched my life in very clear ways, opportunities to minister to friends and strangers at church and out in the world. My story is also filled with moments that I’d be happier not remembering. Things that I’m so ashamed of they almost take my breath away. That time in 2nd grade when I joined my schoolmates in making fun of one of the special needs children at my school, losing my grandmother’s letters that I was transferring to typed pages, hurting people I love with careless words. And other things that I can’t say out loud for fear someone might hear and recognize me for the charlatan I am.
Depending on my mood and circumstances of my life at any given time, I live fully into whichever set of names feels more real. And I believe fully in my story of grace, or my story of disgrace, whichever feels truer.
It’s easy to assume that I am alone in my duplicity. But it is more likely that we all have names we don’t want people to know – stories that we are too ashamed to tell. If we’re lucky, we learn from those stories and strive to let go of the names we don’t want to define us. And for me, there are a few precious people out there who know my stories, good and bad, and I’m blessed with their love anyway.
Finally, there is a prayer that one of our priests says at the end of the service that gives me hope when the mostly untold parts of my story break through the cracks:
Life is short,
and there isn't much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.
So let us be quick to love, and make haste to be kind,
resting assured that God is now, always has been,
and always will be infinitely more concerned with our future than with our past.
So may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be upon you and remain with you always.