It was 11.29am. Having been excused from work I stood with 20 or 30 others in the queue. There were sixth-formers who had skived school to be there. Smart-looking young professionals from the Home Office across the road. Eager tourists just coming along for the ride (and possibly receiving something far less exciting than they were anticipating). The deadline was midday. Would I make it? Would I get to the front in time? Would I relay my name to the barista and receive my brand spanking new special free latte?
I arrived at the glass-top counter at 11.47 and proudly declared: 'I'm Phoebe.' The lovely barista looked apologetically at me, and asked, 'Fevey?' already writing it incorrectly on the cup. Not wanting to be rude, or to anger the 100 or so people impatiently waiting behind me, I nodded my head and smiled. And thus began the endless name fiasco of the past few months. So far I have had: Fibi, Fevey, Fibey, Phoebbee, Phiby and perhaps most magnificently, Bebey. Perhaps this is a wake-up call that I need to enunciate my words more clearly. And I am also no saint in the name department. I discovered last week that I have been calling a young lady at church by entirely the wrong name for months – and now make a point of mentioning her name at least 20 times a minute when speaking to her.
Why is it that names are so significant? Why are they so important to get right? Why do I feel so alienated from my glorious hazelnut soy latte when it has 'FIBI' plastered across the top?
Names are significant in the Bible. One of the most wonderful biblical passages for me comes in Revelation. Often when I imagine heaven, I think of a huge sea of people, all singing praises to God. Usually I am at the back of the crowd, and God is in the distance. He is unreachable somehow, and I am lost in the sea of worshippers. But actually, this isn't the picture we get from the Bible.
In Revelation 2:17 it says, 'And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it' (NLT). God will give us a new name, a name that only we know. The Message translation calls it a 'secret' name; it's a private thing in our relationship with God, a special way in which we, and only we, will relate to him.
Definitely not a sea of people. Hand-picked. Identified. Unique. Personal.
God knows my name. And it certainly isn't Fevey.