December 21, 2013, marked a very special moment for retired teacher Margaret Ann Wolf Harris in Catonsville, Maryland.1
Christmas was just around the corner, but it wasn’t “Silent Night” or the anticipation of spending time with her family over the festive season that thrilled Harris’s heart. On December 21 the 71-year-old heard, for the first time in her life, the voice of her father, turret gunner Sgt. Cody L. Wolf, who had been shot down over Germany on January 11, 1944.
Earlier in 2013 Baltimore Sun research librarian Paul McCardell had discovered a package containing vinyl recordings of a wartime holiday broadcast from England that featured more than 50 soldiers and women in the Red Cross from the Mid-Atlantic region, including Sgt. Cody Wolf. “I’ve been thinking a lot about Catonsville,” Wolf said to the host of the broadcast. “My parents and my wife and our 16-month-old daughter, Margaret Ann.”
“I heard him call my name, and that is something special,” said Harris. “I could hear the pride in his voice.”
I swallowed hard when my wife told me the story. I could palpably feel the joy and exhilaration and thrill of hearing somebody I care about call my name. We love to be recognized by name—not “What’s her name again?” We need to be loved, and know that we are not just a number in a file or an anonymous database record. I need that—and so do you. Can you imagine listening, for the first time, to somebody you love say your name?
God knows about this deep need for name recognition. He does not worry about it as an advertiser worries about name recognition during the Super Bowl. As our Creator and Redeemer He must have built into our emotional DNA this longing to be called by name—because, ultimately, it marks our need to find Him and be safe in His all-powerful, yet gentle, hands. “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine’ ” (Isa. 43:1).2 “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me” (Isa. 45:4).
I look forward to the day that I will hear my heavenly Father call my name. Revelation 2:17 reminds me that God already knows my real name, a new name testifying to His grace and transformation. I imagine that I will just stand—and be thrilled.
God knowing my name reaches also to you, my brother and sister worshipping with me in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It levels the playing field; I am not better than you, and you are not superior to me. When He calls, we recognize that God called us both by our names; that His grace is operational in both of our lives; that “we” is the operational word in Jesus’ presence, not “I” or “mine.” We suddenly understand that before His throne there are no liberals, conservatives, or cultural Adventists. Suspicion, misgivings, or distrust have no place in His presence; we will just see Him, the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 5:8). We stand among sinners—looking like you and me—who hear their names being called in the throne room of the universe. Like Margaret Ann Wolf Harris it will mean the world to me. Like Margaret Ann Wolf Harris it will be the greatest gift ever. Like Margaret Ann Wolf Harris we will know that we are loved!
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20)!