EDITOR'S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner (Zondervan).


The Gentle Whisper

Tomorrow night I could change my little girl's future forever —and strangely, she isn't even born yet.

On our "date night" — an infrequent event for two parents with two other children under the age of four — my wife, Kelly, and I will go to a local bookstore, sit down with a stack of books, and participate in a ritual as old as humanity itself.

We're going to pick out a name for a child we've never met.

At least that's the plan.

With only eight weeks left in the pregnancy, we can't afford to stall.  Unfortunately, we've been having the same date night for the last several months, and we're no closer to choosing a name.

When we come home, our babysitter can tell with one glance at our dejected faces that we're going to need her services again, and sooner than any of us thought.

Naming our first two kids posed a few obstacles, but at the present moment this third one has us caught in a cruel headlock and almost ready to tap out. Until we settle on a name we're gridlocked, unable to move an inch in any other area of our fast-paced lives.

As a guy, coming home without a name feels similar to returning from a hunt without a kill — or maybe from the hardware store without that critical part (although admittedly I don't often venture into the realm of home improvement). In any case, my inability to score the right name undermines any hope of fulfilling the "masculine stereotype" of a problem solver.

Kelly doesn't feel any better.

She paces the house at all hours of the night, penciling possibilities that seem impossible when examined in the light of day. Somehow, both of us feel beaten by this task, and every day that we fail to come up with a name is another day closer to our daughter's birth.

At some point in history, we humans decided assigning names in infancy was a good idea. Our parents got suckered into the same strategy because they had the same pattern modeled to them.

The tradition isn't all bad, as there are some benefits to bestowing names early on. No one wants to be referred to as "boy" or "girl" for the bulk of their childhood. Yet our need for names bleeds much deeper than birth certificates on official papers and lingers much longer than the echo from the server's voice at Panera Bread announcing that our "Pick Two" soup and salad combo is ready to be picked up at the counter.

The truth is, every single person who's breathing in this same air on planet Earth is also caught up in the same age-old Name Game.

And as long as we're stuck in the Name Game — the unsuccessful cycle of trying to discover our true identity independently of God — rest assured, we'll never win.

On the contrary, we'll always be swept away with a dose of angst that often feels as colossal as planet Earth.

Think I'm exaggerating?

Let me ask then:

Are you completely secure in understanding who you are?

Are you confident you know your true identity?

Are you fully resolved concerning certain monumental issues, like discerning your purpose, calling, and lot in this life?

If not, don't feel discouraged. Instead, realize these feelings are both normal and natural. God himself planted these questions deep inside your soul in order that you'd eventually discover the path that leads to him. Or, more theologically accurate, so that you'd reach the end of yourself and then finally be ready to experience the beginning of him. The Bible tells us: "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 TNIV).