Some time ago I was given a nickname. During my thirty-one years on this planet I have had many nicknames. My dad called me Coconut Head when I was a baby. Anyone that knows me understands he was describing the strong willed female that I have always been. There are some nicknames that have matched and others that didn't. There are nicknames that were cute and others that still are deeply hurtful. I have had my share of each.
In my awkward teenage years my youth pastor named me Little Raincloud. Not having a sense of my identity, I embraced the nickname. On the inside the name grieved me. I wasn't a Little Raincloud: Was I? I certainly didn't want to be. I wanted to be loved and be the center of attention for somebody. I wanted to be special and bring a sparkle to the world. Instead, the world saw a gloomy, difficult and hopelessly awkward Little Raincloud.
My youth pastor had no idea that I had a massive crush on him. He was a handsome thirty-something surfer who lead a Christian rock band. How could I not have a crush on him? I was very chunky back then. Nobody believes me now. I remember Mrs. Murphy, my fifth grade teacher, calling me into the hall ofJoseph Weller Elementary School to discreetly discuss my weight. I weighed one hundred and thirty pounds! The emptiness I felt drove me to eat. I would eat anything, even a frozen bag of vegetables, to fill an unidentifiable anxious void. My youth pastor had no idea that I believed I looked fatter when I smiled. The obvious solution to looking attractive was to refrain from smiling. It made sense to me, after all, supermodels hardly smiled.
In order to hold onto my new name I had to identify with being a Little Raincloud. I fully absorbed my new persona. I dressed different. I wore nearly black lipstick. I leaned into destructive attitudes. In order to be the Little Raincloud I adopted a hardened persona. I was so desperate for an identity. I just wanted to be seen. Looking back, I wonder what my high school years would have been like if I had disputed the nickname.
At youth camp my heart was etched with pain when the older boys taunted me with the name Wo-MAN. I wasn't like the other girls. I didn't want to stay in the cabin gossiping and trying on clothes. I wanted to play and play hard. I was a tomboy. I enjoyed hiking and adventuring in the wilderness. That was the summer when I learned that I wasn't who I was supposed to be: at least, not according to other people. I was shamed by being called a Wo-MAN. For nearly a decade I secretly believed something was wrong with me.
I knew my given name was wrong. It was inconvenient. Every year my stomach would clench as my teacher would try to say my name: over and over again. It was horrible to hear my last name botched by well meaning tongues conveniently fueling the snickering of my peers. I wanted to be seen but not because I was inconvenient. By the time I was a senior, my nickname was Kala-hooney-hooney in tribute to my inconvenient last name. After graduating I found myself working as a hostess for Tony Roma's. My new boss didn't appreciate writing out my long name. She shortened it and my new nickname was MK. I didn't mind being called MK. It made me different but at least I wasn't inconvenient.
MK was not the last name I was to accept that year. I was promoted to a waitress position. I was a rookie and quickly found out I had a new name. I used to drive to work with the windows down. By the time I arrived, my thick hair was blown into a black cloud that hovered around my head. The guys I worked with dubbed me The Wookie: as in Chewbacca of Star Wars. In fact, I also answered to Chuey. Again, I eagerly embraced any identity. How desperate I was!
Moving on from Tony Roma's, I found myself working in a cigar bar. The patrons were a mixed assortment of men. My strong willed self dealt swiftly with the occasional rude gentleman. I quickly earned the name Warrior Princess. While the name was glamorous, I was anything but the courageous woman I tried to portray. I never sanctioned myself to be the Warrior Princess. I was sure that my friends meant well but that they didn't know me at all.
My family and friends alternate between my English and Hawaiian name. As such I usually end up answering to either Mare or Loks. Neither or which looks pretty, nor sounds all too appealing. I was never really fond of being called a female horse. Surely, that name is seriously misgiving! All the same, I have answered to many a nickname.
Patrick, a debonair maitre de in San Francisco loved to announce the latest duce or four top in my section of our restaurant in San Francisco, "Table for two, Mrs. Crabs." At Bob's Steak & Chophouse we served Maryland style crabcakes. You guessed it. I didn't appreciate those late night customers. The waiters even had a crabby dance for my most snappiest nights. By the way, Patrick, I still have my Spongebob crabby patties!
The most recent nickname has truly revealed the inner workings of this complex body, soul and spirit that I am. A few friends, the kind of friends that love with honesty, gave me the nickname Pending Approval. It was a different nickname. For the first time, I didn't answer to a boyfriend's pet name. I didn't respond to the taunt of a co-worker. I simply was positioned to peer into the heart of a woman revealed.
I can't even remember all of the nicknames I have worn over Pending Approval. Each time I received a new name, I felt accepted. With each name I drifted further away from knowing who I was. I have stared into many a starry night sky silently asking God "Who are you and who am I?" I never heard Him. It wasn't because He didn't answer. I didn't hear Him because I chose to hear everyone and anyone who saw fit to give me a name. I was addicted to pleasing others for a quick fix of approval.
In this season, I am learning that it is okay to dispute the opinions of others. I also believe that it is possible to remove the faded patches of nicknames that have muted the brilliance of who I was created to be. If you have relegated yourself to the nicknames and opinions of others, my prayer is that you begin to peel away the layers of adopted names. Let God, who loves you like no other can; reveal the awe inspiring creation He dreamed you to be. Don't settle for any less!