I’ve been reading through Pete Gall‘s book Learning My Name with some friends.
It really is a fantastic read, but in some very grand ways, I hate it.
Not because anything is wrong with the content. There isn’t.
Not because it is difficult to read. It isn’t.
I hate it because of the way it forces me to look at parts of myself I have long since put away.
Or so I had thought.
The basic premise of the book is that we carry a certain image of ourselves that is contrary to who God knows us to be.
The name Pete attributes to himself is “Dumbass.”
Other friends of mine had given themselves names such as “Forgotten,” “Spaz,” or a bevy of other things.
The name I gave myself, or at least see in myself, was “Good for Nothing.”
You see, for some reason, despite my own outgoing nature, significicant accomplishments, and incredible relationships, I have an incredibly low image of myself.
A minimal appraisal of my own value.
Maybe some of it stems from my background or things I had been told when I was younger.
As a senior in high school, I applied to ONE school: Samford University.
No “safety schools” for me.
I was going to Samford, come hell or high water.
Upon realizing this fact, one of my teachers told me how selective Samford was because of it being a private school.
This teacher then point-blank told me that I’d never get accepted.
I got accepted.
Of course, there was no way for me to ever afford that, so I ended up sending a last minute application and receiving a scholarship from Snead State before transferring to the University of Alabama.
Just a couple of years ago, while planning my first mission trip, I wanted to do a steak dinner fund raiser.
It had never been done at this church.
They were a “spaghetti lunch after church for donations” kind of church.
But I kept pushing, and the pastor told me that we might be able to sell 50 dinners.
We passed that.
We sold well over 200 and raised nearly $2000 on one event.
I’ve heard that the church has since had another successful steak dinner.
Even now though, I struggle to see the significance in what I do.
Both in my full and part-time jobs.
I struggle to see significance in several facets of my life.
Sometimes it’s just easier to buy into the idea that:
I’ll always be a nobody from nowhere that is capable of nothing.
I suppose maybe I’ve always felt like I had something to prove.
That a nobody from a tiny one-light town and without a wealthy family could make something of himself outside the confines of a place where everyone knows me.
“I’m Kyle, I’m from Geraldine.”
“Where’s that? Never heard of it.”
This whole naming process brought up another memory.
Most people who read this blog have heard me talk about RHYTHMinTWENTY.
This is a leadership/community-building ministry experiment that began just a few years ago.
Though planning had been taking place much longer, the journey started for me in October 2008.
As a part of our time in Denver together (this time as total strangers meeting for the first time), we shared our stories.
The things we struggle with, the questions we have, the backgrounds we come from…
Not with the whole group at first, but with a smaller set…maybe 5 guys and an older mentor to guide us through this process.
At the end of that week, not unlike any other retreat you’ve ever been on, each of us received a tshirt.
On the backs of these shirts were inscriptions that were personally chosen for each of us by our mentors.
Something to abbreviate our stories and desires, or to rename us.
These are names that I know, at least for a few of us, have had a tremendous impact.
One guy even took his name and has started a photography/design firm with his wife.
The one that replaces “Good for Nothing?”
I was given this name because I was continuing to fight because it was the right thing to do even in less than stellar circumstances.*
Do I always live up to that name? No.
But that isn’t the point, is it?
It is a name to strive toward embodying rather than a name that is deserved.
*Though it did turn out later that I was in fact, being unfaithful in staying to fight … See Jonah I and Jonah II for details)
Some days it’s easier to grasp that concept than others.
Some days I wrestle and question and cry over the idea.
Some days I know beyond question that I am valuable.
Sometimes that questioning depends on where I am or who I am with instead of on what is true.
Since this is my space and I should be honest here…
Oftentimes, I don’t feel like I’m good enough for the company I keep.
I share stories with guys who pastor churches while running nonprofit organizations.
I share stories with guys who are journalists with excellent stories to tell.
I share stories with guys who leave everything behind to launch new churches.
I share stories with guys who are preparing to move their family to Spain because they have heard God’s call.
I share stories with guys who start photography businesses and give away 20% of their profits.
I share stories with guys who have clear vision for their life.
I share stories with guys who are much more educated and hold higher degrees than myself.
You can see how easy it is to lose yourself in that.
How easy it is to revert back to calling yourself “Good for Nothing,” or at best, “Not Good Enough.”
These guys are progressive thinking giants in my life.
Surrounded by great people doing great things can have two effects.
1. Inspire you to do great things.
2. Make you question what you have (or haven’t) done.
But there is another side.
A side that I imagine feeds my ego just a bit more than it needs.
When I spend time in my hometown, I have a tendency to take on characteristics of those thinking giants.
I become like someone not from small town Alabama.
I, though paling in comparison to my friends, see myself as I have seen them.
I pick up an “I’m better than you” attitude somehow along the way because I GOT OUT.
I pick up the attitude because I moved away and graduated from college.
I pick up the attitude because I’ve been able to travel and see more and do more.
I pick up the attitude because of the names I can drop.
I pick up the attitude because I have a need to prove that I’m not “Good for Nothing.”
I want my life to mean something significant.
And I don’t want it to have to be with the mindset of a big fish in a small pond.
I still desire greater things for my life.
I desire to live out the name, “Faithful.”
I desire for my value not to be found in a place, but in a Person.
Can you imagine how things might be different if we somehow managed to see in ourselves what we see in Christ?
If we truly believed that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead actually lives in us?!
It would be so much easier to be Faithful.
And impossible to see ourselves as “Good for Nothing.”
So what about you?
What names do you struggle with calling yourself?
And what name really belongs to you?
Peace and Love.