Last Monday morning was dull. It was my own fault really. I had to go and have a meeting with a solicitor, never an awe-inspiring, excitement generating highlight of the week at the best of times, and in this case it was worse. However as mentioned it was my own fault. For years now I’ve had the (possibly bad) habit of making sure that whatever meeting I’m in, I’m the most prepared person in the room. It doesn’t mean I know exactly what will be said, or what will be done, but whatever happens, I have the body of work prepared to act and react to what happens. So as this, very pleasant I might add, solicitor rambled through the law as pertained to the discussion I was having, I was struggling to keep my mind from drifting, because I had read up on what he was talking about before the meeting.
When it came to the point of confirming our names, and signing the piece of paper necessary to the meeting, he paused and looked at me, then looked at my mum (who was also present), and asked “Why Kieran?” Now for a moment I was wondering if he was asking a metaphysical question, a philosophical wondering on the why of my existence, but then quickly realised he was asking about my name. My mother’s wonderfully crafted, exquisitely mature response was to say, “It was my husband’s choice. By that time I thought I better let him have a say in the name of at least one of our sons.” and there I was thinking it was only rock musicians that blamed everything on the father.
Now as my Father died a few years ago, I cannot ask him why he named me as he did. While he was alive, I never thought to ask, and to be honest bearing in mind his penchant for Johnny Cash, I should probably be grateful I didn’t end up as a Sue. As I cannot ask him, I am perfectly entitled to believe what I wish to believe about why he named me as he did. So my choice is to believe he was so sick and tired of my mother choosing really dull boring names for their sons (I mean Darren and Richard? Really?) that he decided it was time to inject some awesome into his offspring.
Despite all other emotional, and self-esteem issues I may have suffered in my life, as far as I’m aware, I’ve never disliked my name. Back in the good old days, everyone in my school was named Ian, or Sarah, or Louise (literally I believe in my class at primary school there were 4 Sarah’s and at least 2 Louise’s), Kieran was a name that stood out, not just because it was different, but because no-one could spell it. Despite this, and despite the anger I feel to this day, when people can’t be bothered to take five seconds to spell my name correctly (really I think my favourite misspelling I’ve seen is probably “Ceiron”) I like my name, and it’s important to me, desperately important to me.
I firmly believe that when you name something you have to be incredibly careful. Names are vitally important, and in many ways aren’t treated as seriously as they should be. When you name something you shape it, there is power in the names that you are given. The story of Jabaz in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NLT isn’t important because it’s a way to gain stuff, or to increase your “territory”, but instead because his story is about the breaking of the power of his name over his life. Seriously, if you call your wonderful new daughter Krystal you are just asking for her to grow up to become a stripper. I did a lesson in a school once and a little girl was called Tequila, I don’t want to know why. I know someone that once had decided on a name for their new daughter, and because the modern world is what it is, wisely decided to Google it before making the final decision. The first couple of hundred entries came up with an attractive young lady that obviously didn’t feel that wearing clothes was all that necessary when people were taking photos of her, and the couple decided that they would choose a different name.
Names are vitally important, and we see in Scripture that God changes them to suit His will. Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul, and many others. When God changed a name it was not just because He decided that the old one was dull, it was a mark of the change in a person’s life, and not only that but most importantly it was a signal of intent for what was to happen. An inescapable stamp of the purposes of God on someone’s life. While I was at a placement church during my degree, there was a dear old man called Ken. Ken was a WWII veteran and was, at that time, probably in his eighties. Most of the time he was one of those dear sweet little old men, that while physically still healthy, was ever so slightly confused. Almost every Sunday evening (he only came to evening services), he would approach me as if we’d never met, and after introducing himself would say, “So you’re at Moorlands are you?” Go back and read that sentence again, this time in the stereotypical voice of a British WWII RAF officer, and you’ll hear exactly what I did…every…single…Sunday. Like most men of that demeanour, there was the occasional moment of incredible sharp clarity, and wisdom. The eyes suddenly lost their daze and focused sharply. The soft grip became firm. The low tone became urgent, and these moments of clarity turned a sweet old man, into a passionate, God-fearing, prophetic voice in the church. In one such moment he approached me one Sunday, and gripping my arm said, “Your name is Kieran?”, I remember that I nodded, merely happy that we weren’t going to have the same conversation we always did. Then he shook his head vehemently. At this point I was wondering how to diplomatically correct the crazy old man that didn’t think I knew my own name, but then he spoke again, “God wants me to say that your name is now Joshua.” He let go of my arm, and walked away.
I haven’t seen Ken for over 10 years, and I believe he’s with the Lord now. And I won’t sit here and say that I totally understand that thirty second conversation, but it’s stayed with me. I couldn’t name 5 people from that church now, but I remember Ken. I like my name, it’s a good name, and as further evidence of name’s defining shape it suits me down to the ground. Kieran means black. Now I may well be the whitest person you could possibly meet. Factor 50 sunscreen means that I merely suffer 2nd degree burns on a sunny day. My middle name is Peter, which as all good Christians know, means Rock. Some people may try to convince you that Peter is actually more effectively translated as stone, but they’re just flat out wrong. My name means Black Rock, and what better a name for someone who has an ironclad certainty of who he is, and what he is, someone who actively works against anything pink and fluffy, and who firmly believes that Christianity that doesn’t menace with spikes is Christianity that has no impact. Plus my musical taste runs to heavy technical metal music, so there’s that as well. While I don’t believe that God is changing any aspect of my personality, and how my name interacts with that (He created me like this, and I truly believe that He selected my name too, my Dad was just an accomplice), I do believe that there is a calling on my life, a responsibility based upon a prophetic word that God has delivered to me. It may take the rest of my life to truly understand that word, but I need to allow God to use it in my life.
Most of all, however, our name is important, not just because it contains our personality, our shape, not just because it contains our destiny, or our purpose, but it records us as being present. It’s Easter Sunday as I write this, and I’m reminded of the famous words, “If your name is not on the list, you’re not coming in.” As a Christian, my security, my basis for existence, my basis for my very presence is outlined in Revelation 3:5, NLT
“All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and His angels that they are mine.”
I am victorious, for Christ died to set me free from sin and death, I ended a blog last week with the words that Christ stepped into Hell, ready to break the chains, and Satan’s power forever. His death and resurrection results in victory. Romans 8 says that we have “Absolute Victory” through Christ. Some would translate it as “More than Conquerors”, which is good, but “Absolute Victory” gives no wiggle room whatsoever. Through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection we share in that victory. As I share in that victory I can have ultimate faith and hope for the future, not because of any ephemeral belief, but with the knowledge that Christ my Saviour God has written my name in a book, that promises life, and that name can NEVER be erased.
And that’s not even the best bit. Imagine the scene, the Throne Room of God. The elders and angels around the throne, God sat, in all His glory and majesty upon the throne. Read Isaiah 6, NLT to get a feel for the scene if your imagination is suffering. And before the Throne, the Lamb of God, risen saving sacrifice Christ stands, and with a loud voice declares. “Kieran is mine!” Every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every year, from now until eternity, my saviour God, declares to His Father, the Just Creator, that I, Kieran Peter Woodward am His. That I am held in His hand, that my name is written in His Book of Life. That I am sealed by His blood, and I live the promise of His love.
I challenge you the next time you feel far from God, the next time you’re scared for the future, the next time you don’t know what will happen next, the next time you don’t want to get out of bed, for fear of what the day will bring, remember this: If you have asked Christ to be your Lord and Saviour, if you have asked Him to come into your life, to wash away your sins, to fix your brokenness, to make you new, then remember this: He stands before God, and declares, not in a whisper, but in a shout, that You are His. Forever and Always.
I realise I’m preaching now, so I’ll end here, and you know what they say, finish on a song:
What’s in a name that the demons flee,
What’s in a name that the captives go free,
What’s in a name that every knee should bow,
In the name of Jesus, name above all names.
Have a Good Easter!