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                                  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,                                     and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

As they pulled the old paneling from the partitions in the basement of their recently purchased home, the young couple discovered that many of the two-by-four boards which had supported those walls for many years had words penciled on them. Occasionally the words were singular in nature, but others were complete thoughts.  It’s as if they represented partial conversations. The obvious question was – why would someone write on that framing?  If the current occupants knew the history of the house, they just might be able to attach a name to the scriber of those words.  In researching the names of prior owners, they would find that they were written by a man who had the reputation of being an excellent carpenter. In his later years, he had lost his ability to speak. While helping to create living spaces in this, his son’s home – he would communicate by writing on the boards. Who would guess that in the ensuing years those very words would resurface as a mystery, easily solved if you only knew the person?

What’s so important about a name anyway? Does a name have value? Collectors of art will tell you that it does indeed. Even though there were past artists who rarely signed their work, its authenticity is identified by experts through detailed documentation. Like the house with the message on the wall boards, establishing the chain of ownership of a painting assists in the historical verification of its creator, thereby growing its value.  Even today, an artist’s name on a print can increase the price by two or more times. Couples sometimes struggle for weeks and even months to find just the right name for their newly anticipated arrival. There are others who take the simpler route of identifying their child as someone’s namesake. Two-time heavy weight world champion boxer George Foreman explained, “I named all my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common. I say to them, “If one of us goes up, then we all go up together, and if one goes down, we all go down together!”

Perhaps Foreman’s many years of boxing provided great lessons about maintaining a reputation. He would have understood and implemented the practice of shadowboxing in his daily workouts. The technique involves the fighter literally boxing his shadow for the purpose of training and strengthening his muscles. All this as he readies for the engagement of a competitor in an actual fight. The Apostle Paul used this analogy as He spoke about the Christian’s preparation for “the good fight” and ultimate path to victory (1 Timothy 6:12). He states it this way: “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing” (1 Corinthians 9:26). Acknowledging that his reputation of persecuting Christians would always be under the microscope, he knew that he could not afford to waste his punches by utilizing a lot of time and energy simply beating the air. There would always be those who would remember his past and ask, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” (Acts 9:21).

Every so often I am asked if I know someone to which I frequently reply, “I don’t know them well, but I know who they are.”  Sometimes the manner in which I know them has been tainted by an assumed reputation. It’s unfortunately true that what one does or says often burns an impression in another’s mind. Once an opinion is formulated, it is difficult to change or erase these imprints from one’s memory. The value others place on our name often reflects how sincere they think we are and can also have an effect on how they will interact with us. Knowing you for your true self is never an issue with God.  Not only does He know our name, but He knows everything about us. God knows our character, because He understands our intentions and our heart.  He knows our every thought, whether we express it out loud, decide to put it in a diary, or write it on a two-by-four.  Our name is a marker. It not only identifies who we are but also whose we are. Like Paul, we must stop shadowboxing and simply focus on Him.

REFLECTION: Do you focus more on what you have heard about someone (their reputation) or on what you have personally observed about them?  How much time do you spend on concerns about what others might think about you (your reputation)? Are there ways that you might be more intentional regarding God’s view (your character)?


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