For most people in my life I am Chris. But my full name is Christopher. How did I become ‘Chris’? Shortening a name can be a way of expressing familiarity amongst friends and family. David becomes Dave and Margaret becomes Maggie. Paradoxically those with short names may end up with longer ones: Ann becomes Annie and Sam becomes Sammy. I am not sure how I became ‘Chris’, but I suspect I had a hand in things. It wasn’t that I disliked ‘Christopher’, it was more that I decided I didn’t want to inconvenience the world by having too many syllables. ‘Chris’ was a way of quietly fitting in without causing too many ripples. ’Christopher’ was more of an announcement – a proclamation – this is who I am...take notice! I wasn’t sure whether the full version of ‘me’ was OK, and whilst this went far deeper than how others addressed me, ‘Chris’ was a way of hiding in the background – slipping away from full view.
When God calls me by my name does he say ‘Chris’ or Christopher’? In one way this is a nonsense question. For God, your name, or my name is far more than a collection of letters arranged in a certain order. It is all that we have been and all that we will be; it is all that God is creating in you and me even now. Only God knows our names; and only in God can we come to know them. But my sense is that to God I am more ‘Christopher’ than ‘Chris’: in other words, he addresses the whole of me: all that I know now, and all I am yet to discover; all that I am comfortable about, and all that I fear and find disturbing; my weaknesses, needs and longings as much as my strengths, gifts and achievements.
It is important not to run from your name. It is your name after all. There can be no alternative. And it is a good name. In the Creation story in Genesis, God forms living thing, then names each as a unique being and gazes at what is made and sees that it is good. Forming, looking and naming are one, undivided movement of creation. Even now God is forming you, speaking your name, gazing with love at what love is making.
Prayer is how we journey with God into the fullness of our name. There God reveals our true names and lead us in turn to speak them, for after all, this is why we have been created.
Call me Chris, or call me Christopher. I can be comfortable with either. It is only a difference of letters and syllables. But Lord, call me by my true name that I might understand this person you have created me to be, and that I might dare to speak it, come what may.