What's in a name?
Yesterday, at our Council Board retreat, a fellow Scouter addressed me as "Mr. Collins." He's been doing this for a while. He was brought up in Louisiana, and he's showing the respect his Southern upbringing thinks is proper. This time, I corrected him.
"If we're going to be all proper and use titles," I said, "then I would be either 'Doctor' or 'Reverend,' not 'Mister.'"
"What do you prefer to be called?" he asked.
"'Art,'" I said. And now, I think we have that settled.
I'm not much for titles. I've got them, but I don't use them very often. For that matter, "Art" is more of a title than a name. Nobody in my family calls me "Art." To them, I am "Arthur." "Art" is a name given me by multiple generations of children and youth in Scouts and church. I wear it as my public persona, as an honorable title bestowed by those whose good opinion I value very much.
And, of course, to two little boys I am "Grandbear," another title bestowed in love and worn more proudly than either "Doctor" or "Reverend." The original Grandbear was my father, who was given that name by my nephew. My children used it, following his example. My daughter was born on my father's birthday, and they were always close. When she had her first child, she transferred the title to me, teaching Daniel, and then James, to call me that. So it's a double honor.
I've been called by lots of titles over the years. "Preacher" was not one I cared for; the fellow who used it most habitually finally dropped it after I started calling him, "Farmer." Not much for "Brother Collins," either. "Pastor Collins" is better, and I understand where the person who calls me that is coming from, but it still seems a bit distant to me. In the Order of the Arrow, my Vigil Name is Geschitehen,
which means "Determined One" in the language of the Lenni Lenape. That expresses something about how my fellow Scouters saw me as a young man.
For what we call others says not only who they are, but what they mean to us. So, generally, I let people call me what they want. Only occasionally do I express a preference, and then only when I get the feeling that people are talking to the sign I'm wearing, rather than to ME.
In the Bible, names are very important. To name something is to say, in a measure, what it is.
And when God bestows a name, he decrees something about the recipient. A new name establishes a new nature, or a new relationship with God. In the kingdom that is to come, we are told,
To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it (Rev. 2:17b)
In other words, when we finally reach that bright kingdom, God will reveal to us the Selves he knows us to be, that we have only dimly perceived and too often marred in the attempt to be what we wanted to be. And we will spend eternity contemplating what that new name says about ourselves and our relationship with God, and sharing what we have learned with others, to whom also have been revealed their true Selves.