Absent-minded professor.

That’s what my mother called me.

Whenever I left my jacket at school, forgot to put my plate in the sink, or abandoned my dirty clothes like castaways all over my bedroom floor. Whenever I dressed the dog in a skirt, carried roosting chickens into the house, or built an eight-foot wide Stonehenge with Lincoln logs in the middle of the hallway.

I think the name came from the popular 1960’s show Gilligan’s Island. A kind of mix-up mash-up of the movie star Ginger, the farm girl Mary Ann and the Professor.

I was all three, you know.

Quite the character.

So I heard the name a lot.

I doubt my mother knew at the time how significant her label would be. She spoke it with endearment and with the strained patience only the parent of a truly precocious child can comprehend.

My mother may have had dreams of me becoming a first grade teacher like her. But instead I became just what she said. The absent-minded professor.

Her words had power, you see.

Our words do.

They brand our identities. They burn prophetic marks upon our souls. When we speak to another, when we classify, categorize, judge, assess, we rarely consider the power of possibility.

But it’s there.

In blessings. In curses.

Whether good or bad, we often live up to the words spoken over us. Just as others live up to words we speak over them too.

I wonder sometimes why God allows our naming to carry such weight. Why the “words of the mouth are deep waters” (Proverbs 18:4 NIV). Why the “tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).

We are not very trustworthy.

Not with our words.

We pitch them around like fastballs, curveballs, sliders, cutters. And sometimes they soar. Sometimes we might even knock one out of the park.

But more often than not, we foul. We strike out. We forget what power our words, our names, possess.

But God does not forget.

That power, after all, comes directly from Him. And He does not mince words.

In the beginning, God spoke all creation into being. With words, he separated light from dark, heavens from the earth. His audible voice brought shape to each new thing. And He named them.

Day. Night. Sky. Land. Sea.

He took His time to name and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10).

And it was.

Then God set out to craft from dust His finest creation. A man, a woman made “in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God gave Adam and Eve His very same ability, you see. To call forth with authority. To speak out with formidable influence. To name.

He created these human beings to proclaim wholeheartedly “what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

And they did.

To make certain they did, in fact, God brought before Adam “all the wild animals and all the birds in the skyto see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19-20).

The power God granted Adam and Eve was intentional, deliberate, on purpose. He created them to name.

And He created us to do the same.

Unfortunately, our hearts are rarely full of God’s best, are they? In this fallen world, it’s so much easier to let the depravity of life slip in rather than fight like a wounded warrior against it. As a result, in our frail and flawed natures, we store up selfishness. We harbor pride. We cling to envy, brokenness, woundedness of the acutest kind.

And our hearts then overflow with the negativity embedded in these things. Instead of good, we speak words of offense, blame, unforgiveness, belittlement, gossip, divisiveness, judgment. And we invent heartbreaking, devastating labels.

Stupid. Idiot. Ungrateful N—–.

I’m sure you could add a few to the ones I heard repeatedly spoken over me as a child. Maybe ones much worse.

If I were God, I would honestly put a muzzle on humanity. I would shut our mouths before any more damage could be done.

But I am not God.

And good thing I am not.

Because God refuses to take away our freedom. He will not limit our independence or imprison our liberty even in the face of humanity’s cataclysmic foot-in-mouth pandemic.

God knows that eliminating our ability to choose would mean barring our access to love. Love freely given. Love freely received. His unconditional love we so desperately need.

And what we were purposefully created to receive.

Besides, the only way we would believe Him anyway, the only way we would truly accept God’s Word as Truth, would be if we saw the insurmountable power within our own words. If we saw how much life and death our words can ultimately bring. Only then would we understand that His words have power too.

Power that is “alive and active.” Power “sharper than any double-edged sword.” Power that “penetrates even to dividing soul from spirit, joints from marrow.” Power that can “do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine” (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 3:20).

And the power His words possess is far greater than any name another person (or even yourself) might think up and haphazardly slap on you.

All we have to do is stop.

To stop and listen.

Because a different Voice is speaking. A different Voice is calling. A perfect Voice is sounding out a new name, a redemptive name, a glorious name.

The name of Beloved over you and me today.


When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.

Jeremiah 15:16