As you can see from the title of the blog, my understanding is that names can be very important. My own name, Emma, means ‘universal’ or ‘of the universe’, which I’ve always considered to be fairly rubbish. No offense to the universe, but isn’t that a polite way of saying ‘common’? Saying this, it could be worse. ‘Glen’ means ‘ditch’.
I was thrilled when a friend told me recently that Emma can also be translated as ‘whole’. Given the amount of time I’ve spent compartmentalising, breaking and trying to remake my identity, this has brought me great hope. I see it as a symbol of the ways that God can redeem even the messes we make of ourselves. Whatever we’ve done, whoever we are, in Him, we are no longer enslaved to the labels which others give us or that we give ourselves. He gives us a new name, a fresh start.
A passion for naming is nothing new. Names in the Bible are of enormous significance and can act as one-word summaries of someone’s entire life and destiny. But it’s the Lord’s Name who stands above all others. And this can’t be contained within any of our definitions. He is The Suffering Servant, the Son of Man, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There aren’t enough words in the world to begin to describe or ever contain Him.
Another name for God, is El Shaddai. (Very) roughly translated, this means ‘He Who Is Enough’. And it’s one of my favourites. I don’t know about you, but I have an enormous hunger – not just for food, but for people, for affirmation, for meaning, for stuff. On a basic level this means that (especially when stressed), I stockpile ‘essentials’. These range from toilet rolls to chicken fillets, long-sleeved striped T-shirts to cotton wool. (This may seem a little strange now, but when the tinned tomato trees dry up, I’ll be the one laughing. In the meantime, it’s chicken and tomato casserole till 2017).
A fear of not having enough is one of the drivers for many addictions, including eating disorders. Rather than be overwhelmed by my needs, I may choose to starve and thereby kill them, or I can go to the opposite extreme and literally stuff myself with more than my stomach can take. If I’m smoking, I want three packets of Marlborough Reds. Drinking? One is never enough. Shopping? I need a whole new wardrobe, not just a T-shirt…and so on. This is matched by an emotional hunger – for time and affection and encouragement, but paradoxically, for space and control and boundaries. I want it all – but then that’s far too much, so I retreat.
One of our cats, is exactly like this. During the day, she’s paranoid, skittish and aloof. To persuade her to eat, you have to play dead for a good two hours – and if you make a move towards her during daylight she does the feline equivalent of clutching her heart and keeling over. (You’d think we fed her spinach and kept her in the cupboard with the hoover. This only happens on weekdays). But at night – at night, the ice-queen becomes a shameless lurve-seeking missile. Needy doesn’t even come close. She licks the computer and nibbles your ears, rolls across the floor and has even learnt to switch off her no 1 rival, the TV. (In the morning, she hates herself, but that’s another story).
In the same way, I try to switch off my wants and needs, but they then end by up dominating and overwhelming me. Next day I vow to start afresh, but the emotional starve/stuff cycle just starts again. It is into this chaos that the Lord who is ‘Enough’ speaks peace. I can trust Him to give me exactly what I need. I don’t have to store up stuff or kill my wants – He created me with all my desires and He alone can satisfy them.