It makes me smile to imagine what our postal delivery person must think. “What a strange mixture of folks live here. Stephanie Rutt and Doug Rutt. Stephanie Rutt is sometimes Reverend Stephanie Rutt. Then there is also someone called Sat Darshan Kaur and someone else called Saki.” How even further perplexed our dear mailperson might be realizing that all of the above, except Doug of course, are one in the same. At the risk of being perceived a spiritual name junky, I could imagine sitting on the grass having an earnest, heartfelt dialogue explaining how my years with each name has helped me to cultivate something unique – something that has helped me to become more me. But, then, all I can envision is an even greater look of polite, yet growing, perplexity on my mailperson’s face, just barely masking the desperate need to escape, “Hey lady, can I just go deliver the mail now?!”
Many faith traditions, of course, recommend taking on a new name as we journey along the spiritual path. In eastern traditions it is a well known practice. From my years with the Sikhs, I am lovingly called Sat Darshan and from my years with the Sufis, Saki. As an interfaith minister, I am called Reverend. Though less a Christian practice for lay people, in Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the beloved Christian allegory, Much Afraid is also given a new name as she moves onto the high places with the Good Shepherd.
I have a deep respect for the purpose of being given a new name. Such a name points us in the direction of being what we may become. But, today, I find myself looking back to where I first began. Sixty-three years ago, today actually, I was born a small, premature, child in Meridian, Mississippi and was given the name Stephanie. Like many of us with challenging childhoods, I spent most of my early years wishing I were someone else, or somewhere else, having a more normal, carefree life – someone who might even get to have some other new exotic name to match.
Today, I keep a childhood picture on my altar. There I am smiling back at me. What tender love and gratitude I have for her – this early image of me. It is because of her, I have truly been able to know I blossom not in spite of but because of. It is because of her, I can remember I am enough so I can be nothing. She is the one that teaches me, again and again, about ever deepening levels of forgiveness, healing and, especially, self-acceptance. And, she is the one, who has always known, right from the beginning, what I may be.
I still happily answer to my spiritual names and follow their impulse. But, today when I hear the Beloved’s call, I hear my name given all those years ago. And, I can imagine taking my little one by the hand as, together, we respond.
For it seems, only together, do we fully recognize to Whom we belong…
And, so it is together, we gladly answer…
To the only name that holds all we have been and will be.