The other night I went to see The Proposal at the movies with my BNE. It was really cute and I have to say, I was even a little surprised by some of the elements that I thought would be so predictable. Of course Ryan Reynolds is just an assault to the eyes–it was a real trial to have to look at him for 2 hours. And Sandra Bullock–please. She’s stunning. Over 40 and nary a wrinkle or flab roll? I have no use for people like that.
So I’m lying in bed trying to sleep, and I’m thinking about these people and what their real lives might be like. Does Sandra design new tatoos for [husband] Jesse James? What does Ryan do in his spare time? Do he and Scarlet [Johansson] cook together? Does he call her “Scar”?
Then, because my brain is one constant rolling rabbit trail, I started to think about names. The things that fill your brain after midnight, right?
How do nicknames begin? Do mothers name their children with potential nicknames in mind? [and seriously, does Scarlet Johansson go by “Scar” at home?] This made me think of my pastor, Rob Bell. I wonder if his parents decided to call him Rob, to distinguish him from his dad? Or if he chose it as opposed to Bob, Robert, Bobby, Robby? My dad thinks that Bob is the greatest name you can give a child. He wanted us to name both of our sons Bob, and has often said that if he could change his name, he would choose…Bob. “There’s no confusion, no questions about the spelling, everyone can pronounce it, and it’s the same frontwards and backwards. Perfect.”
When a mother looks into the soft, squished up face of her lovely newborn and bestows a name–arguably the first gift a parent gives a child aside from life itself–does that mother stop to think about what the future might hold for her baby? How the name will fit when the baby becomes a boy, a teen, a man? When Lovell Swindoll held her infant son in 1934 [no I didn’t just know that, I Wikipedia’d it], did she have a stirring–an inclination–anything?–to think: “This is our new son, Charles Swindoll. He is destined for greatness in the Evangelical world.” Or the mother of C.S. Lewis–or Dietrich Bonhoffer. Did they know? Did Clive’s mom think, “I’ll name him Clive Staples so that he can go by C.S. That sounds so distinguished, and it will certainly look fantastic on a book sleeve.”
If they would have known–if we could know–the futures awaiting each of our children, would it change our parenting? If we were raising the next Billy Graham or Corrie TenBoom, would it change the way we nurture our kids? Would my temper be better controlled? Would my tongue be tamed? Would we read together more, study our Bibles with greater fervor, love our neighbors any differently?
Of course anyone who’s ever seen Back to the Future will tell you that once you know the future, you can’t change the past because it will alter the outcome of that future. If Chuck Swindoll’s mom had done something drastically differently, who’s to say that we’d have the same Chuck on our radios today? If Dietrich’s mother radically modified her mothering, would he have stood with such determination at the hands of the Nazi’s? Only God knows that, but certainly no one can deny the strong, indelible print of a mother [and father] on the hearts and lives of her children. In fact, years ago I heard Chuck tell a story of personal temptation; he recalled the Bible verse that his mother had taught him as a boy that came rushing into his heart at an acute moment of weakness. Realizing the impact that that mother had on him and the lifelong imprint she left made me want to teach Scripture to our kids. Right then, I wanted to be the kind of mother whose teaching followed her children into adulthood.
Thinking about names, about raising kids, about shaping their hearts and their spiritual formation made me stop to consider: crystal balls would be nice, but the end of the story actually lies in the present. The end of the story is decided in some measure, apart from God’s grace and sovereignty, upon how we decide to partner with him in the lives of our children. How will we choose to use today? How will we spend our moments together? Our evenings alone? As as if by magic, I heard Chuck just minutes ago, this time talking about the life of David. And in his teaching he said, “When’s the last time you thanked God for not showing you the future?”
He gives us only what we can handle for the day. I believe that. And so, I look at the little faces that, with my husband, I named years ago. And I trust that they’ll grow into those names and into the future that God holds for each of them.