When I was young, my mother and father and close family called me a nickname.  With a name like Charles, one might assume the nickname was Charlie, Chuck, or some other horrid mangling of my name.  Nope, my mother nicknamed me Chad.  If anyone other than my family calls me Chad, it feels like nails on a chalkboard.  Actually if someone calls me Charlie I get queasy, and there are only 3 people in the world that can call me Chuck without me getting violent.  (each of them makes it sound like Peppermint Patty, so it’s cool)  My name is more than a moniker, it’s me.

Names are important to most people.  They are tied to identity, and they are tied our self-concept. 


Over the years, because of my temporary mentality, it has been easy to take on nicknames or other names.  My best friend in highschool called me C.D.   I enjoyed that.  In middle school, I even used my middle name for a little while because I so wanted to be close to my father.  My middle name is my father’s first name.  To this day, when I sign my name, I always include it.  I’m proud to have my name.

C. D.   


My first name comes from my mother’s father, Charles.  I never met him, he died before I was born.  He was an Episcopalian priest, and an race relations activist in the deep South.  My middle name comes from my hero, the man I would most like to emulate, Dean.  If I could live up to the standards that those two hold/held, then I might just be the man I’m supposed to be.

Charles Dean

Over the years since highschool, I was given a name in college, Kirill.  When I studied Russian, my favourite teacher gave it to me.  It’s a great name.  It sounds so beautiful with the Russified form of my middle name.  Dinovich (son of Dean).  Kirill Dinovich.  Doesn’t that sound like a scholar’s name?  Doesn’t it sound like a writer’s name?  For almost 3 years, I went by that name almost to the exclusion of my given name.  To this day, if I remember a certain beautiful woman’s voice saying my name, I smile uncontrollably.


I was involved in a missions trip to Kenya in 1992.  During that trip, I spent time with the Maasai people in the Rift Valley.  While there, I was given a Maasai name.  I suppose that it was a way to include us in a culture with which we were unfamiliar.  I’m not quite sure if the folks that I was serving understood this, but they named me like they name so many children.  Nadasim.  Firstborn.  I am the oldest in my family.  It meant that I was named with the purpose of carrying on the family tradition.  A standard bearer.  I hope and pray that I live up to that level of expectation.


When I moved to the city I live in now, I took a job with a group of folks who were from another culture.  To include me, they gave me the name Carlos.  It’s very interesting to note that by receiving this name, I felt like a member of their group.  I felt included, and special.  It’s the community aspect of this name that makes it special to me.


Later on, when I found a possible avenue to serve God in Japan, a very dear person to me tried to translate my name into Japanese for me.  The translation was rough, and so it was shortened from Charusu, to Chai.  Chai-san to be exact.  It is also a name that I enjoyed hearing because of the person who would say it to me.  But, it also represents an emotional tie to a drink that I use to remember my times of service in Kenya all these years later…. tea.  Chai is almost globally the word for a type of tea.


Being called something that was given to you is a neat thing for a time.  Often however, if you’re uncertain as to who you really are supposed to be, or if you don’t like who you are… it is a refuge for a time.  One can even get so used to being someone new that you believe that you’re that new name, almost like a new person.  But unless the name is actually who we are, it’s like living a lie.  That always leaves us a little less of ourselves in the end.  For temporary people, it’s often just another mask we put on to keep us safe from ourselves. 

And by living through these names I have learned much about myself.  I also have understood that my very nature allowed me to hide who I really was at times through the use of these names.  They are like mirrors, all-knowing but at times distorting.

I’ve learned something finally.  It’s taken a great deal of time and effort, but I’ve learned it.  My name was spoken to me before I was born.  Inside that name carries the substance of worth, the kernel of identity.  Through the years, each name given to me, even my own nome de plume represents another step of my search to become the man I’m supposed to be.  I am Chad, Dean, Charles, C.D., Kirill, Carlos, Chai-san…. and I am none of them.  Just as each facet of our personalities is a part of us:  son, brother, friend, lover, confidant, counsellor… just like the things we do make up who we are:  writer, scholar, dreamer, poet, teacher, etc, etc, etc….  But the part is not the sum of the whole.

There is no one name save that which our Creator has given to us that identifies us.  There is no one role save that which we were created to be.  And there is no thing we do, save (to paraphrase Robert Benson) that which echoes within us to do.

I am Beloved.  I am a Child of God.  I am To be His.

It takes a lifetime to figure that out.  How surreal. 

I have enjoyed the names I have been given as they are gifts of the people around me.  They are the most perfect of sentiments, and they hold those people dear in my hearts.  Sometimes, I wonder what name we give God in the same vein.  I wonder if He is just as pleased and special because of what I call Him…

What are you named?

Who named you?