Athazagoraphobia

name-tag

‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  –Exodus 33:12b

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and Ted Danson was the guest being interviewed.  He mentioned about his struggle to remember people’s names, and how he has to “load-in” the names of people he’s about to see.

My first thought was, “Wow!  I have the same problem!”

My second thought was to laugh, realizing that the theme song for his most famous television show describes a place “where everybody knows your name.”

I desperately wish I could remember the name of every person in my church.  I envy people who can do it.  I would be so much more hospitable with second time visitors.  I would greet everybody at the door by name.  I would serve communion by name.  Every phone call, every committee meeting, I’d be throwing out names, left and right.

I’m not sure why I have such a problem, but I do.  Even with people I’ve known well for half a decade, sometimes the name just escapes me.

I looked on WebMD for some help.  They listed 36 conditions that contribute to the loss of names.  Naturally, I gravitated to the more severe ones:  Stroke, Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow Disease.

Probably not.

Then I thought, maybe I just have a phobia about it.  I looked it up:  It’s called Athazagoraphobia, the fear of forgetting or being forgotten.  Kind of funny that its name is something I will NEVER be able to remember!

Maybe I do have Althazha….Athazagrapi….nevermind.  Whatever you call it, I suppose it describes me.  Scared of forgetting people by name.

There are 35 times the NIV Bible uses the phrase “by name”.  Many are census listings in Numbers or Chronicles, or conversations between God and Moses in Exodus, but in Isaiah 43, God says this to God’s people:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. –Isaiah 43:1b

God knows me.  By name.  Not just me.  Every person who walks through the doors of the church.  Every person who fears forgetting–or being forgotten. No need to fear.

That doesn’t allow me to abdicate my job to “load in” as many names as I can, but truth is, there are few places where “everybody knows your name”.  It’s just not the Norm. (Get it?) Names are tricky sometimes, slippery.  Some people are better at it than others.

But in God’s redeeming of our lives, we are known, by name.  God claims us. God knows us, and wants us to know God, too.

God is the master of name-knowing.  You and I are just apprentices.  Disciples.

So as we continue the hard work of getting to know those around us, we can rejoice that God has long been on the job.

For that, we must be eternally grateful…

So say it with me…

Cheers!

Mitch

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“You’re Wrong”

I wrote a post on the Mulvane Voice.

The Mulvane Voice is a Facebook page where people can comment on community happenings, invite people to events, but mostly, tell everybody if they find a stray dog.

Oh yeah…one more use of the Mulvane Voice:  To tell other people they’re wrong.

Someone will complain about something, somebody else will tell them their wrong, and complain about the other person’s complaining.  This goes back and forth several times, until a third person tells the other two that they’re both wrong, and lamenting how the message board has become one big place for telling others they’re wrong.

My post was an invitation to this year’s blessing of the animals.  We set up right next to the city pool on the evening when they have a special doggie swim.  Lots of people love the idea of thanking God for their precious puppies.  It’s a great time of outreach, and a lot of fun.

And I was looking forward to it, until somebody replied to the post to tell me I was wrong.  That animals have no souls.  They quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1, which says, “Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

And then, lots of people chimed in, on both sides.  The whole thing was a big mess until my wife diffused the whole thing by pointing out this was simply thanking God for our pets, and nothing more.

I think those words, “You’re wrong”, should be used sparingly. They are potent words, creating division, polarizing people, and staking a claim to the truth that might not be one’s to stake.

This online argument, about the presence or absence of a soul in animals reeks of an inner desire to be disagreeable.  Or to be right.  Really, isn’t that what we are saying when we claim “You’re wrong”?  We’re declaring ourselves to be right.  There may subjects and situations where that kind of confidence is warranted, but most of the time? Being right is just not that important.

Far more important is to be loving.  Remember this?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  –1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Remember, Paul did not write these words for a marriage ceremony, but for a church community that had taken to seeing the “wrong” in each other.  Love here is not some gushy, uninformed sentiment.  It is a truth-focussed, other-centered declaration   A better way to act and behave.   It is a way that has slipped away from so much of our world.

I never give advice in these devotions, but I feel compelled to today:  When you are conversing with someone, in person, over the phone, even on a message board, avoid, as much and as long as possible those two words:  You’re wrong.  The moment’s flash of superiority they may gain you will so quickly be replaced by an empty void where love might have been.

As for me, I realized that if I could bless a bunch of strange dogs, I could struggle to offer a blessing for all us strange folks on the Mulvane Voice.  Call that what you will, but if you call it love…

you wouldn’t be wrong.
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My dog, Tom Petty, getting ready to help bless the animals.