I read a story on NPR’s website recently about the importance of pronouncing peoples’ name correctly and it struck a cord immediately. I remember a few years ago I was driving to an event with two good friends of mine, friends who hadn’t met each other before. As I was introducing them, one friend corrected my pronunciation of his name. I have known him for YEARS! I have been pronouncing his name that way for YEARS!
I was mortified that I hadn’t been saying it correctly. He quickly clarified that that was how he told me to pronounce it, that it was an easier way for Midwesterners to say his name than the actual pronunciation, but that now, he was teaching his friends the correct way. He said at first it just seemed easier to make it work for others rather than constantly correct people, but now he wants others to learn it correctly. This was profound to me, because other than a summer spent as an exchange student in France where the “th” of “Ruth” is a challenge, no one has ever mispronounced my name. It isn’t tricky, unusual, or hard to spell.
I spent days reflecting on what it would be like to know that my friends weren’t saying my name correctly and it stung. Our names are a part of our identity, but they are not the only part. So much of who we are and how we experience the world can’t be totally understood by someone else. There are parts of our identity that will always be “mispronounced,” as it may be. But those relationships that fill our hearts and give us life are those where we feel known, seen, and understood for who we are. I often turn to the words of Isaiah 43:1 that say, “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” When it feels like the world just doesn’t get us and our lives or our identities are being mispronounced, I take comfort in these words. “I have called you by name,” means that we are known, seen, and understood. We belong. May you remember today that God always knows your name and loves you.
In Peace, Pastor Ruth
Let us pray:
Gracious God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing. Pour into our hearts your gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Friend. Amen.