Names are no small thing in the bible. There are many figures who are given a new name when they perform a great deed. Angels go to the parents of John and Jesus and tell mom and dad the names the kids will have. The evil spirits cast out of people frequently make a big deal out of knowing their own name, and they often place importance on the fact that they know Jesus’ name. The book of Revelation tells us that we have a secret and true name carved into a stone that is waiting for us.
There are things in the bible that don’t feel very relevant to us today. So we might try and pay lip service to the idea that names are just arbitrary and meaningless. We could claim that they are just a random series of sounds assigned to us birth. But our life experiences don’t bear this out.
So many groups that wants to create a community will assign its members new names. From summer camps to street gangs, from college fraternities to online communities, we give each other new names. We go to restaurants or coffee shapes, and when we interact with people we will never see again, we find it important to make sure that they spell our names correctly. Kids that are just reaching their adult years often find it necessary to re-name themselves, requesting that others call them by some new name, a process not unlike ancient tribal people, who would endow those entering adulthood with a new name, often earned through some sort-of vision quest.
When you engage in meditation today, perhaps you would like to choose a word, today. People use mantras as a way to focus. Repeating the word silently is a strategy to get past the distractions which our minds will throw at us. Some people like to use words with a specific meaning they won’t to focus on: “Love” or “Jesus” or “Yahweh.”
Contemplative John Main suggests the word “maranatha.” Before I researched this word, I kind of liked it. It is almost as long as each of the breaths I take. When I choose a shorter word, I find that distractions creep in, between repetitions. And when I looked the word, discovering it is one that Jesus himself said, an invitation for God to come and a declaration that God has already arrived, I liked it even more.
There is no magical meaning to these sounds. They are just words. But even without magic, words and names are powerful things. Choose a mantra today, and let go.