My friend Julian knew the name of the capital city of every country in the world. Every single one. Julian was an older student at the University of Sussex, where we wound up in the same building of on-campus housing back in 1983, and had lived a bit before taking on university studies.
One of his jobs had been as an overseas operator for British Telecom, the phone company, on the night shift. He took requests all night long from local operators for connections to overseas telephone exchanges, and he had to know the capital cities of every country on earth in order to get the call through.Julian said he eventually had them all memorized. We challenged him on it one night over a bottle of 12 year old Scotch, starting with the countries most familiar to us.
We moved to some that we thought would stump him.
We kept trying but Julian was rattling them off like he was reciting the alphabet. I decided to dig deep for a country he might never have placed a call to.
“Ah yes, now that’s a fairly recent one, since the country changed its name from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and finally in 1980 to Zimbabwe. You’re trying to trip me up on the capital, though, Tim; it used to be called Salisbury but in 1982 they changed it to Harare.”
We gave up.
Knowing Names Counts
Julian may have known the names of the capital cities for every country in the world but God knows the name of every person ever. The Bible says that God knows us so well, he knows us from the first moment in the womb.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13.)
He calls us by name because he knows us.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me … .” (John 10:3, 14.)
And he has a new name picked out for you, one he has chosen just for you.
I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17.)
I kind of get to see this at work. I don’t see people I’ve known from the womb. That would be weird. I’m not God. But I do see people whose names are important. That would be everybody.
When someone appears in court – a witness, an attorney, one of the litigants – I want to get their names right. If I need help, I ask for it, telling them that I think names are important and I would like them to make sure I say it the way they do. Some people are taken aback. Maybe they thought judges don’t care much who is in court. Maybe they’ve never had any authority figure show an interest in getting their name right. I do, because I think names are important. I think it’s a Godly thing to be concerned about.
I also get to see people who show up with one name and leave with another. Name-change petitions are filed often in court, and a judge makes the decision whether to grant the petition or not. Basically, as long as it’s not for a nefarious purpose and meets the basic requirements, there’s no problem. (Check out the young boy and his parents, for example.) Starting the hearing by calling people by the original name and ending it by addressing them by their new name usually brings a smile to their faces. I like the name change hearings because they remind me of God and the new names he has for us.
I may never get all the names of all the capitals of all the countries right, but I do get the importance of knowing names.
After all, making sure a person is called by the right name is important to God.