Being Known by Name
Dr. Paul Tournier has always been a hero of mine though I have only known him through books and tapes. In one of his talks that I have on tape entitled THE MEANING OF PERSONS (which is also the title of his best known book) he talks about how important it is to be treated like an individual, and not just seen as a role, or as part of a crowd, or just another member of society.
He tells the story of one of his colleagues , a physician at a large hospital, and how one night he met a woman who attracted him very much. He struck up a conversation with her. He was sure that he had met her before but couldnt think where. “Was it in Capri?” She replied, “No Doctor”. “Was it in the Caribbean?” “No Doctor”. “Was it in Paris?” No Doctor, it is every day in the hospital. I am the head nurse in your hospital” . He had seen her in role, in a certain function, but had never really seen her as a person.
Tournier found this to be true in his dealing with patients in his medical practice. For a long time he saw patients coming in one after another into his office, as cases. He characterized them according to their illnesses, but he knew little of them as persons. Eventually, people started to tell him more of their lives. They would tell of their innermost longings, and their deepest pain and joy. He would say to them “This is most interesting but I must ask you to come back and share this with me in the evening in front of the fire. So, he developed two practices: one in his office; one in front of the fire. He discovered in his consultations in front of the fire that it was extremely important to get to know the whole person if you are intending to treat them medically. He , in fact, called this the Medicine of the Person.
Many other physicians have found the same thing. One of Tourniers friends began to carry on seminars with physicians, and urged them to give each of their patients at some point in their treatment, a long session. By spending this amount of time he told them that they would discover persons They would see how often their illnesses were related to their ways of dealing with life … to the way they had adjusted to life… .to their way of coping… to their way of living.
That is often difficu1t in the normal course of medical practice. there seems to be so many people sick, and too few physicians. It almost seems like a conveyor belt sometimes. However, we can really appreciate a Doctor who will take us aside, speak to us, and most of all let us speak, a Doctor who will treat us as a person and not just another case.
There are many factors in our society that conspire against the personal approach. We are often seen as numbers, for example, we have a S.I. Number, a Medicare number, Drivers licence number. We are a number in host of computers.
There was a story not long ago about a Dentist in Calgary who wanted to have our S.I.N. and other forms of identification numbers in a micro-dot inserted into our teeth, so we would never be without our number, and even in an accident we would easily be identified. Have you ever seen the Smiths, a couple on T.V. and Radio who write and sing about social issues. They had a song out about the Postal service called “ITS ONLY MAKE BELIEVE” They had another song out recently about a test tube baby, “MY MOTHER WAS 134786 AND MY FATHER WAS A BEAKER”
There are good reasons for all these things (even the Post Office), but it does present us with the fear that we are losing our identity as individuals in a system…, a fear that we will become completely passive and manipulated in a system beyond our control that we cannot effect. This could lead to being seen as a part of the state.. .Any individual is expendable, for the good of the state. This can lead to being viewed as nothing but a complex piece of matter, of earth, or clay. When one dies this matter breaks up, and all that is left is a few dollars worth of minerals– iron, potassium, iodine, and others. I believe these ideas have already eaten into our ideas and behavior. This is the environment for a far serious condition among us.
There are many people , and maybe all of us from time to time, feel that they are nothing, or nobody. It is a complex that robs us of the power to deal with life. Sometimes we think so ill about ourselves that we paralyze our lives and prevent anything good from happening to us. Sometimes we even get into promising situations , something that we could really use our gifts, but are so immobilized by this complex of inferiority that we can only make a meager effort at the best. We give up dreaming great things , and therefore we not only fail to do great things, but we also begin to die.
Morton Kelsey in a book REACHING FOR THE REAL calls this the “Grasshopper complex”. When the people of Isreal was just about to enter into the promised land , ten scouts came back and said they could. Another ten said they couldn’t because the land devours its inhabitants and the people their were of great stature and as they said” and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” They had no confidence in themselves they lost the vision of themselves, they forgot what God had done to them and for them; they forgot that they were backed up by a power greater than any human power. They still looked at themselves as slaves. They could not see who they really were. They went back and spent another forty years in the wilderness. That’s a good term, “The grasshopper complex”. You think so little of yourself that you defeat yourself, and you drag yourself down by depression and despair.
That’s why the Gospel is good news. It almost certain to be the Risen Lord speaking to us today in the Gospel. John writes it from the perspective of knowing the Risen Lord. Jesus says of himself that he is like a shepherd, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” . HE CALLS HIS OWN SHEEP BY NAME. That’s the first step in breaking the Grasshopper complex. You are known BY NAME. You are important. Your whole character is accepted just as you are. You exist in the midst of a loving relationship with God. If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have died for you. That is what a Good Shepherd does. You are of ultimate importance in his eyes. He sees your infinite possibilities. Can you hear that Gospel and still think of yourselves as grasshoppers?
The first step in breaking this complex is to realize that you were made in the image of God. Christ shed his blood for you. He calls you by name.
The second step that is important is to listen to your name being called.
Sometimes when I cant sleep at night, I realize that God called Samuel in the middle of the night ( You remember the story ..he thought it was Eli). So I get up and I listen. Sometimes I even write down what occurs to me. Often I feel that he communicates with me, that he embraces, me, and that he is concerned about me, that he speaks my name, just as he spoke Mary’s name in the garden when she found the empty tomb. Then I know that I am no grasshopper. So stop and listen. You may be able to hear knocking on the doorway of your soul. If you open the door, you may find the Risen Christ standing there with one hand raised to knock.