Renaming myself

“Giving words and voice to ourselves allows us to step into our own lives more fully, to live more abundantly from our center.”

I find myself taking a new name today: blogger.

Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t been blogging for a while now.  In fact, I want to offer a special welcome to all my Sister-friends who have been on this journey with me for sometime.  It is simply that I’ve never owned the name.  I have never paid enough attention to what I am doing to discover a new aspect of who I am becoming.

We women do that a lot, you know: we do the work without owning the name.

Sometimes that is our brilliance and our gift.

Sometimes it’s our self-sabotage and downfall.

A part of my struggled to own that moniker is the simple fact that I never imagined that I would be a blogger. For that matter, I realized recently that many of the most valuable adventures of my life are things I never imagined doing:

  • marrying at 21 … I fully expected to be a single career woman
  • giving birth to our son at 23… we found ourselves pregnant the same month I started my first fulltime job and my husband started graduate school
  • discovering that I love being a woman… sadly, somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that for a while (more about this one in days to come)
  • working in hospital chaplaincy… I was actually interviewing for a completely different job when the head of the spiritual care office offered me one in her department
  • becoming an author… I confess to feeling guilty about not having dreamt about this one… so many people would die to have a book published
  • working in spiritual direction… the only book I read in seminary that was not a classroom assignment was Holy Listening, the book that introduced me to both myself and my calling
  • blogging for Patheos… okay, blogging at all

Now, I guess there are a couple of ways to see this list of life’s surprises.  Maybe I am way out of touch with myself, my gifts, and even my calling…. Okay, that’s clear.  But thankfully, it’s not the only operational dynamic here.  A more hopeful slant might be that I have found, now and then, the grace to consent to God’s generosity and wild imagination and to discover myself to be someone more than I had originally dared to believe or see.

There’s a lot of power in naming and re-naming and it’s a power we as women can use to do really good things if we first learn to use it on ourselves.  Giving words and voice to ourselves allows us to step into our own lives more fully, to live more abundantly from our center.

Take Naomi , for instance.  When she walked into her hometown after several years away and the devastating loss of her husband and sons, the women of her city greeted her: “Is this Naomi?” Feeling rejected by God and utterly empty, it was an especially bad day to have a name that meant “pleasant” so Naomi re-named herself something that fit better: “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, bitter.” I can only imagine how much courage it took to openly and unapologetically own her pain.  And how much strength that owning gave her.  (It seems that as a gender, we women can find strength in the strangest places.)

Then there was Hannah. Even before she named her son (a radically feminist thing to do in her day) as Samuel, the one she had prayed for, she first renamed herself.  When Eli the priest falsely accused her of being drunk, she didn’t literally take a new name as Naomi did, but she did redefine the false identity given to her by this errant voice of authority. In a series of “I am…” and “I am not…” statements, she discovered her own personhood and the freedom to live her life forward by renaming herself.  As the story so poetically notes: “she went her way.”  Renaming is a powerful thing.

So, today I rename myself and discover more of who I am. As one of my favorite poets, Alla Renee Bozarth says, “You will get where you are going by remembering who you are.”

Though I am not quite sure where I am going with this new identity, I do know that I want to start by boldly taking a new name… and I know that I don’t want to go alone.  I hope you will join me in this conversation as we explore together how we can find ourselves in the stories of women in Scripture, maybe beginning by taking a new name yourself.  Let’s get to know one another in the strength of who we really are: no hiding, no pretense, no apology or diminishment needed here.