different names

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1

I was standing in line at Ladurée, and this little girl and her nanny breezed in to stand behind me. The girl was adorable, and was rocking her curls better than 5-year-old me (and present-day me, to be real) ever could, and she just started talking to me. She tried to hand me a piece of chocolate, while her au pair advised me to ask for the box of 8 instead of the box of 6 (oh didn’t you know, dear? It’s the same cost for both. Silly, isn’t it? Yes, the box of 6 is just on display, and you have to specifically ask for the box of 8; which is the only one I ever purchase from here. I much prefer the Paris locations; I’ll be so delighted to be back in the fall…)

The girl interrupted to ask my name.

I’m 23, right, I’ve been going by my name for a while. Ah, but what variant do I give this little girl?

In a business setting, I always introduce myself as Christina —it is my name, after all, and it’s what I respond to most readily. When I was at Baylor, the girls in my sorority called me Chris, and my residents from my RA days called me (sigh) Mama Tina. Then I’ve gone by Chrisy at all my part time jobs, and it’s my twitter and insta handle. And if you want to reach way back, I respond pretty well to Lindsay, since most teachers/professors/coaches messed up at some point and call me by my surname.

All this to say, these variants on my name correspond to different points in my life, and the different roles I filled to different people. And, to be clear, it’s not like they embody separate personas, just that they emphasize different characteristics. When I was an RA, it was my job to be caring, inquisitive, approachable and empathetic; at Home Depot, I was supposed to be efficient, friendly, concise (also Patriotic™).

Back at Ladurée, I realized I was probably overthinking things, simply said ‘Christina’, and asked hers. I walked away with a chocolate orange macaron, and thinking on identity.

What does God call me?

When He looks down from heaven, down through the skyscrapers and subway grime, to find a curly head of hair, what does He call me? Does He look and say Sabbatarian? Does He say Daughter, Doubter, Doer? Does He say Girl Who Cares, Girl Who Dreams, Girl Who Believes, Girl Who Tries? Does He call me Chris some days, Christina others?

Isaiah says He says Mine.

Because above the things I do, the emotions I feel, the ways I react, the actions I take, beyond all that, one thing remains. No matter how much or how little I do, no matter how people remember me, no matter anything, He remains. He is constant. Above all else, I am His.

And because of that, I can be anything else.

He loves me; I can love. He provides strength; I am strong. He gives me grace; I am gracious. He is hope; I am encouraged. He holds me; I reach out a hand for another.

I used to wish I had a cooler name. My friends had names that meant ‘God’s grace’, ‘Captivating’, or ‘Strong’. Even my sister, hers means ‘Advisor, Anointed One’. Christina, on the other hand, is the feminine version of Christian, meaning, you guessed it, ‘Follower of Christ’. When I was younger, it seemed positively uninspired, and kind of like a cheat, since I grew up in a Christian home. Retrospectively, younger me had a flair for the melodramatic. Even the Bard knew that a name was just a name, but it humbles me every time I stop to think of it: follower of Christ. Before I was born, my parents chose to mark me as God already saw me: as His. And I read that verse again:

But now, thus says the Lord — my Lord, my salvation, my deliverer, who loved me so dearly as to leave the security of heaven and die the death I deserve, bearing my sins and carrying their weight, banishing them and declaring me free, for which I cling to Him as Lord who created you, O Jacob, — me, Christina. Out of every person He could have created, every alternate reality I could conspire, every different way I could be, He chose this girl— and He who formed you, O Israel– chose this hair, this form, this California upspeak, this nose and these calves, painstakingly ordained every feature I try to conceal in the mirror, or correct in store window reflections, lovingly drew me exactly as He’d imagined, that Creator says — “Fear not,– He who formed me, created me, and hears every thought that scampers through my head. There is no fear I have that He is not bigger than,  no worry He cannot conquer, no trial He does not know the end of. I have no cause to be afraid — for I have redeemed you– He rescues me. Like the song, the water is rising and I cannot breathe but He wraps His arms around me and carries me over. He delivers me every day because He already redeemed me — I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”– His. I am His. The name by which He calls me is one of possession, of identity, of purpose and position. None of the other things matter one bit, none of the names I call myself or the personalities they entail. Who I am, what I do, what others perceive or either of those, all fade. What matters is Whose I am.

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