I’ve been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Most of those have been part-time from home—a small vocational and financial miracle from God that allowed me to stay home with my kids.
Nearly two years ago, during the spring of 2020—the Pandemic Spring—I began this blog. I’d been thinking about doing this for a long time, but life kept getting in the way. During the Pandemic Spring, the many plans I’d had were cancelled left and right and I suddenly had the time to consider blogging for real. Everyone else’s plans were cancelled, too, so my tech-savvy and artistically talented daughter was also on hand to help me get this blog off the ground.
The writing hats I wear, often on the same day, are very different. One hat, my professional hat, is 100% dictated by what my clients want me to write. I receive no visible credit for this writing (my name isn’t on anything), but I do receive payment. It’s a good trade. I need to earn money doing something I love, something from home, and something people are willing to pay me to do. Writing is all of those things for me.
The other hat, my blogging hat, is quite different. No one tells me what to write, or when, or how, or for whom. I have no deadlines, no boss, no colleagues, and no financial reward. My motivation to write consists of feedback from readers (all writers have somewhat fragile egos and I’m no exception), my love of words, my desire to help and encourage others, and a conviction that God wants me to use my writing to do that. Also, to be honest, that indescribable feeling of elated relief that comes after having written something (the process itself is a form of mild self-torture; the after-feeling makes it all worth it).
There’s so much freedom in this kind of writing that I sometimes have to remind myself of the most important difference between the types of writing that I do:
The writing I do here has my name on it.
It was difficult at first, putting my name to something that I wrote. I hadn’t seen my name in print since my college theatre days, on a cast list. While it’s exhilarating and ego-boosting in its own way, it carries a great deal of weight and responsibility as well. Suddenly my words could be attributed directly to ME. The thoughts in my head, now made visible for all to see, were clearly identified as MY thoughts.
More than ever before, during the Pandemic Spring I quickly became hyper-aware of what is “out there” under my name. Not just on my blog, but on social media, as well. My name, just like everyone else’s, truly matters, and what I say, and its effect on others in any context, also matters. I began to think more carefully about what words I wanted to share, and for what reason.
What’s in a name?
My first name was given to me by my mother (she had wanted to name me Julienne but then she saw it on a 1960s salad menu and changed her mind—true story). My middle name was a family name given to me by my grandmother. My last name was given to me (or taken by me, however you’d like to think of it) by my husband, now shared with four children, one daughter-in-law, and one granddaughter—and more to come, Lord willing.
So what I type under this name, whether here or on social media, matters. It matters how I use my voice: my ability to encourage or anger, my choice to build up or to provoke outrage, my decision to try to help or to become a part of the problem. It’s a choice we all must make, sometimes daily: what will be typed under our name today?
But even as I know my name is important, and what I write under it has consequences for myself and for others, it’s not the most important name I have. My mother, grandmother, and husband are not the most important name-givers in my life, nor are they the people I need to always try to please.
My most important name is Christian, given to me by God.
When I sit down to type, whether an article for my blog, a social media post or comment, or even an anonymous piece of advertising for a client, my name is Christian. Maybe that’s your name, too. This has great consequences for what we write, in any context.
I was thinking recently about a preschool song I used to teach in Sunday school: “Be Careful, Little Eyes, What You See.” A sweet little song that cautions very young children to be careful what they look at, what they listen to, what they do, and where they go. In the 21st century, we can add—for adults, or actually, any human with a phone—“be careful, little hands, what you type.”
Because, Christian, what you type is going right under your name, and your name matters. Both the name that you use every day and that the world sees somewhere online … and the name you wear engraved on your soul as a child of God.
Names are not nothing to God—in fact, they’re a pretty big deal. I naively thought I would share a few pertinent examples here in this article, but I found that the word “name” appears more than 1,000 times in the Bible. There are hundreds of pages of examples of just how much God cares about names, and it was a little hard to choose. All through the Bible, names are given, changed, announced, remembered, and called upon. Among these are the names of God, the names of Jesus, and the names written (or not) in the Book of Life.
If I wanted to, and many do, I could throw caution to the wind and not care what words appeared under my name. That would be cathartic and satisfying, at least for a while. I could also very easily hide my name “Christian” from the world. That path is smooth and easy, and would greatly reduce the responsibility I feel for what I write. But I can’t do either.
When Jesus sent out his disciples to gather the lost sheep of Israel, he gave them many reassurances and many cautions, along with specific instructions on their behavior and speech (Matthew 10). They would be acting and speaking in his name, and Jesus knew that that burden would be a heavy one to bear. That responsibility is as real now as it was in the first century A.D. If our name is Christian, we are acting, speaking, or typing in his name, for better or for worse.
So I ask myself every time I write (or post, or share, or comment): Did I just put my name on something that brings honor and glory to Christ, even if what I’ve written has nothing directly to do with him? Because ultimately, the name he’s given to me and what I do with it are important parts of the affirmation I long to hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”