The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling
I was born Anne Louise Eaton, and yet my parents always called me Nancy. It caused confusion in school. When I married Paul, I officially dropped the name Anne Louise and became Nancy Eaton Gossling. Our two families were represented in my new name, and there was no more confusion about what to call me. Except, there were people who gave me nicknames like “Banner Bee” or “Twinkle Toes” or “Mama Goose” and “NanDizzle.”
For two years now, I’ve been walking as a prayer discipline. I also recently started training for three upcoming walks: ProjectBread (May 3), Be Peace for Jorge (May 10) and the Camino to Santiago de Compostela (June 1). Last week, I was walking in a neighborhood in Cambridge, and passed by an outdoor basketball court. It was school vacation and three boys were playing ball. As I walked by them, I heard one boy shout “B****” (which rhymes with snitch). I kept walking, not sure if he was talking to me or to someone else (although I didn’t see anyone else around.) Again, he shouted “Hey B****”. Since that’s not my name, I kept walking. Finally, a third shout, “Hey F****** B****”. Now, by this time, I think he actually might be calling me; but since that’s not my name, and I didn’t want to dignify that name for anyone else, I didn’t turn my head. Wondering briefly if I were safe, I kept walking. My name hadn’t changed; although I hoped their game did.
Also last week, a close friend sent me a private FB message. She said she didn’t like the name of my blog which I called my “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah Blog.” Speaking the truth in love, she said that she never liked the word “blah” and she thought that my blog name was too negative, sad, and self-deprecating. I appreciated the feedback and I agreed. Names are important. They can reflect images of who we are, what we do, what we think, and how we behave. I decided it was time to change the name of my blog.
When I believed that God was calling me to something other than parish ministry, it was a game-changer for me. I took a leap of faith into a vocational wilderness, which was both freeing and exciting as well as difficult and disorienting. I could no longer self-identify as a priest, nor as the rector of a community of faith. And so I decided to reclaim my name as “beloved child of God” and to rename my vocation as “missionary” (on God’s mission of reconciliation and love) and “evangelist.” (being a messenger of God.) I decided to use different mediums for my message: personal conversation, public speaking, FaceBook, and a blog.
I don’t want to send a message that our words, actions, the spiritual life, or God is unimportant. I don’t want to send a message that Real Life is only sad, negative, and just “blah”. They are also joy-filled, faithful, meaningful, and purposeful. So my old blog has a new name: it’s the “Be.Loved.Of.God. BLOG.” We are all God’s BeLoved, even when we use derogatory names. So, let’s be the BeLoved. Let’s allow ourselves to Be Loved and then love others, as God loves us. Names do matter; and name changes can be game changers for everyone.