Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Story of a Name

As a creative prairie girl, I love how big blue skies reflect the possibility of beginnings -- a new season, the potential of an idea, the birth of a newborn into the world. With the ongoing baby boom happening in my spiritual family at church, I've wandered into many conversations with my parent-friends on why they chose their child's name.

Do you know the meaning of your name? Or the story of how your name was chosen? 

Justine has a clear, obvious meaning: just, righteous, fair. Growing up, I always knew the meaning of my name given its plain, unhidden meaning. 

Until recently I felt quite disconnected from living the kind of life pronounced over me by my given name. When I think "just," I think black and white, holding to what is right and true. In contrast, I am often trying to come up with "creative" ways to evade or bend the rules; more often than I'd like to admit I am constantly trying to make up my own rules. Like trying to ride further on the skytrain than my ticket allows, or lying to get a student discount because I look younger than my age. I'm not proud of this, but I can't deny it. 

As I walk further in life with my Creator God, I am continually learning that nothing is random given his sovereign care. Just as a protagonist of an adventure growing into their calling and mission (like Frodo, anyone else excited about the Hobbit movies coming out?), I am slowly coming alive to a life that honours the name my mother gave me.

I have not thought much about why I was given this name, other than recognizing its pragmatic nature; if I was a boy, I would have been called Justin. In February at the Justice Conference, the brilliant canvas made of giant white letters spelling out JUSTICE stared at me throughout the conference, reminding me of my name. My friends also commented that they kept thinking it was my name up on stage. 

As I've been awakening to and grappling with the injustices I see around the world, I asked my mom the other day the story of my name. 

My mother is a learner, curious about life, constantly reading, taking in news, mulling over ideas, exploring creatively. At the time she was pregnant with me, she was heavily into biographies of historical influential figures, including Woodrow Wilson, and others like him. She was inspired by these leaders' ideals and persevering commitment to pursuing peace, justice, and a better world. 

And so she named me Justine. To drive the point home, she carefully picked my Chinese name to complement it further. The first character means "ideals and knowledge." The second means "far reaching, long lasting." Her vision in naming me was for me to commit lifelong to realizing ideals like justice and peace in the world. 

Though I feel far from it, I'm inspired by this vision. I'm thankful for the many conversations and people Jesus has led me to experience to slowly shake me from my slumber. 

My eyes were opened to the surprising (not what you might expect) faces of the marginalized during a city mission trip to the poor in Vancouver back in 1999 as a student. A community of people at my church challenge me to pray and engage actively and regularly with the needs of others beyond my comfort zone. A community of beautiful and strong women at SheLoves inspire me as they pave the way forward with their lives of compassion and courage to stand up for mercy and hope to those who cannot stand or raise their voice due to horrible injustices. 

I am still in the middle of the story, exploring, thinking and praying about what it looks like for me to stay awake and walk the way Jesus is leading me to live. I want to stay sensitive to his Spirit inviting me to choose to engage rather than giving into fear, comfort, or numbing myself with useless distractions. I want to grow in being okay with feeling overwhelmed with the pain and needs around me, because at least to feel means I’m alive.

It can be too much at times to think of all the injustice around the world, and even those that I perpetrate within my own heart. But lest despair swallow me, I only need to lift my eyes to see how Jesus took injustice head on. And he won. And that is how I can have hope to continue in this story. 

This post is part of a synchro blog over at the SheLoves community on being AWAKE. Go on over there and read some (or all!) of the other posts to shake your heart alive and inspire your eyes open.