“Stand firm. God didn’t bring us this far and then forget our names.” Bob Goff
I only read a book that truly alters my thinking once every year or so, it is the book that you open and begin to consume like you are mad with hunger because it awakens something ravenous in your soul and mind. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle, was that book for me during the first months of the Coronavirus lockdowns. The theme of this book was of the essential, vital nature of being named and it made me weep in an agony of remembering. L’Engle tells her readers, you are named. You are known. You are seen and you are known and you are named.
A Wind in the Door is the second in the Wrinkle in Time series. Though written for children, the cosmic wisdom of L’Engle’s words have fed my soul more than anything I have read in some time. I know some people who are opposed to L’Engle’s political and scientific views which are woven into her literature. In fact, A Wrinkle in Time, often landed itself on the banned book list, criticized for the intertwining of science and religion. All the more reason to pick the title up and see what the commotion is all about. But I am not squeamish about the way she suggests real and non-magical ways with which the universe can be explained. All of this world, she seems to imply, formed by the hands of the Premiere Scientist, the author of all of the mechanisms which catapult life into it’s combusting and somehow synchronized rhythms. In my mind, science and religion are one. My faith does not become twitchy at the prospect of cosmic explanations. My soul becomes alive at the wonders of a God so incalculable as to create enduring life. This book makes me think of the long hours I used to spend discussing the cosmos, theology, and the beautiful science of God with my father. It felt like home.
I digress. The scientific elements of this book are comforting to me and I love them, but it is the idea of “being named” that so affected me.
In A Wind in the Door, there is a character named Meg who is met with a mind bending problem which she has to solve. Her little brother’s life hangs in the balance. One of her first tasks is to name a man whom she loathed more than anyone else. She was given the job of giving him a name, and it was supremely vital to the success of her mission, to know this man and see him as God sees him and to use that “knowing” of him to name him. He is, after all, so miserably unpleasant because he does not yet have a name, not really. As, even he, despises himself he has become more despicable to others in a spiral of self-loathing and other loathing.
“If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wind in the Door
What does this mean, “to be named”? Essentially, it is to be fully seen and then fully called. You have been formed and you are, but you must also have a name which is a part of you as a created entity. I can’t pretend to understand God’s vital design of being named, but I know that there is a profound, cosmic mystery tied up in it. He created every creature on our planet, and told his own first beloved man to name them. If it were trivial, God would not have bothered with it. Again, we see how he feels about names when he makes a covenant with a man or a woman like Abraham or Sarah or Jacob or Peter. He changes their names. I don’t understand this , but I know a name matters to God, and so it matters to me. It makes me, who is essentially only carbon and triviality, somehow more vital. The breath of God is in me and my soul lives, but that is not enough. I must be named. You must be named. And so I am named, and so are you. I wonder if I am not named merely “Amy”. I imagine that God’s name for me may be a little bit like his name for himself since I am formed in his image. With something more like a breath of wind forming a melodious combination of vowel sounds. Like a sigh or a whisper.
My name is Amy. The latin roots of this meaning love or beloved. My mother gave this name to me. My name was going to be Pamela Elizabeth but instead, when my father left the recovery room, my mother named me Amy Gail. Amy; beloved. Gail; wind. But I like to imagine that God’s name for me is unutterable by my mouth. I don’t know this, it is only something I feel when I know he is calling me. But when he does call to me I am aware of the meaning. It is “beloved” and it is a stirring like a gentle wind winding around and through me. Amy; beloved. Gail; wind. My mother could not have known that she was naming me so aptly, but God did when he told her soul what my name was.
There is power in a name.
It is a funny thing that I am actually a little afraid of names. I have a complex of invisibility. Since I was little, I have had this notion that, because I feel inconsequential, I am inconsequential, and therefore I am not actually visible at all. I assume that I am not quite seeable or important to others and so I do not make an effort to remember the name of those whom I meet. Or, if I do remember, I am in a terror of using their names lest I call them by the wrong name or seem too familiar with them. In fact, when I do use someone’s name, I have this insatiable desire to call everyone by the longest, most formal name they have. If they say, “Hello, my name is Bill.” I will reply, in turn, “Hello, William. It is very nice to meet you.” A person’s name can be intimate. Intimacy feels unsafe and I can be a full blown coward about it.
My husband is the opposite. If a woman says, “Hello, my name is Beverly,” he will reply in turn, “Hi Bev!” and possibly follow this up with a high five. He takes a person’s name and does for them something that is affectionate and endearing, he renames them in a playful nickname. He fast tracks himself into friendship, because he is unafraid of the intimate nature of names. I love this.
So, if you ever wonder why I say “Hey you!” when you wave at me, it’s because I am terrified to death of calling you by the wrong name, and I am sorry. Also, I need counseling.
There are so many elements A Wind in the Door that I would love to dissect because the only word that I could use to summarize this work is important. This book is important to me and will be like a handful of others which have also become important, it will sit somewhere in my near consciousness at all times and the concepts I read about in these great works will inform my mind become absorbed into my character. Because there are too many stitches to dissect in this tapestry I will tackle only the one which has been stirring me so much, like the whisper of a thrill. When you see the God of the Universe, the Immortal Kindness, the Namer, you see a part of yourself which was previously unseeable. When you acknowledge him, you are at the cusp of knowledge. When you know that God is real and that he is yours to have and be had by, you begin to know yourself. Then you become named.