On the Saturday night of the weekend I was in New York I walked back to the hotel through Harlem by myself with the baby. The subway platform was crowded. Rats were running along the tracks. I observed some interactions that made me weary. And then, I got on the train.
A dad and his son sat next to us. Baby promptly grabbed at the kid and we began to talk. The boy was ten and wanted to be a chemist.
“A chemist?” I asked.
“He wants to solve the worlds’ ills,” his Dad told me.
“Well, how are your lab skills?” I asked.
The boy looked as if he really wished he could tell me. He looked like he might have gone out on a limb and told me that his lab skills were great if he even knew what lab skills were.
“Well, there are so many kinds of chemistry,” I said, “You’re best served keeping your options open so that you’re able to go down the path you want to follow when you find it.”
Dad looked at his son to see if he had absorbed that bit of advice.
The son continued to tell me how he was working hard to get good grades, the goals his Dad and he had set together, how strict his Dad was. And the way the boy talked, he was bragging. He was proud of the contingencies that had been placed on his privileges and television hours. Our stop came up.
“What’s your name?” I asked the boy.
“Craig,” he said.
“Well, good luck, Craig,” I said.
“And what’s your name?” I asked the Dad.
“Craig,” he smiled.
I smiled back.
“It was nice to meet you. You’re doing a great job, Craig,” I said.
The baby and I waved goodbye to the two Craigs through the window. And I wondered about it after that, the magic of bequeathing your name. The willingness and care it takes to let someone else wear your name, how invested it makes you.
There was a sermon this summer on the name of God. The pastor talked about “Yhwh”. He talked about the different ways to pronounce it, the implications of God revealing his name to us. He said that lately Bible scholars have been drawing the connection between the sounds and spelling of the word “Yhwh” and the sounds and spelling in ancient Hebrew that represent the sound of human breath, nearly identical.
This is the depth of the Father’s commitment to us. And it is no small thing, that he would trust his name to our mouths with every breath.
And I think about young Craig from Harlem who will forever introduce himself with a name that was his Father’s first.
And I relax into the thought that before I was able to accomplish anything and long after I wear out my usefulness on this Earth my living breath will continue to proclaim the Father’s name.