Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wonderful, Curious, Names.

Names are curious things. For instance, this past week I met a Catholic priest here in Zambia who is from Ireland, and he marveled at my last name being Ireland. I suppose for him, it was sort of like meeting someone named “Jerry America” might be for you and I. Very weird.

“How in the world did ya get a name like that?” he inquired, sounding sort of like that little leprechaun in the Lucky Charms commercial. I told him probably my ancestors, when they immigrated to America, must have been asked by an immigration official, “What’s your name?” And, thinking they had been asked, “Where are you from,” they responded “Ireland.” I mean, its possible, right?

Of course, in reality, I have no idea where the name comes from. As with most Americans, its just a name and the meaning, at least to me, has been lost.

Here in Zambia, however, names are full of meaning. For instance, a child born on a Friday might be named Friday. Or a child born after a difficult pregnancy might be named Rejoice, or Relief, or Gift (a quite common name for boys). Even some foods have amazingly meaningful names. For instance, the casaba, which is a type of starchy root vegetable, has been given a most unique name by people living in the Eastern Province.

Because the plant is extremely resilient, and can survive in almost any conditions, it has been able to provide food and nourishment during times of drought when all other crops were failing. As a result, in this part of the country the casaba is called, “Without Me, You Would Be Dead.”

Now, a name like that might lead to some confusing conversations.

“Ma, what’s for dinner?”
“Without Me You Would Be Dead.”
“Yes, Ma. I know that very well and I am grateful. But what are we eating tonight?”

Confusing conversations yes, but confusing significance, no. After all, I doubt anyone who has every used that name, has failed to realize how vital the casaba is to their survival.

So, all this stuff about names has got me thinking about the name that is above all names. In fact, you could sort of say that Jesus is sort of like a milder version of “Without Me You Would Be Dead” because “Jesus” means, “Yahweh Saves.” And I find that often I use the name “Jesus” in prayer or encounter it reading the Bible, and sometimes fail to grab hold of the wonder that is contained in it! How much more vigorously would my prayer life be, and how much more passionately would I seek to glorify God in my thoughts and in my speech, if I constantly remembered, that Without Him, I Would Be Dead!

This week we heard a story about an amazing lady who seems to have grasped that very truth. She had gone back to the states to retire from missionary life, only to return to Africa months later saying, “Life in America is too boring.” Two weeks ago, she died still serving as a missionary nurse to Zambia. She was over 80 years old! And I have a hunch, that she never lost sight of the meaning of that wonderful, wonderful Name!

Jesus, may we minister and serve in the knowledge that you are the one and only giver of true life!


Netta said...

I'm sure that my Dad would've had a great time making up a story about the reason for your interesting name. I miss that guy! You and Jerry are in my thoughts and prayers!
Love you, Netta

Natasha said...

I love the picture. - Natasha