Driving North on SC-93 towards the Bi-Lo my life changed forever. A bit dramatic, but if I were going to look back at the most significant moments in my life this would be in the top three. Jon was driving and I sat in the passenger seat. We were most likely in some deep conversation about brotherhood or the burgers that rend the heavens at Mac’s Diner when we crossed the bridge and my mind shifted inward.
Disclaimer: This might seem freaky for some.
Mid sentence I believe that heaven and earth touched for a brief moment. I had been searching. Many twenty-somethings are searching for something – Job, wife, house, community – but I had all these things. I was looking for something deeper and ontological. Who am I? What is my Purpose with a capital p? You know, the normal thoughts of a 24 year old.
I was in transition at the church I worked at coming to the realization that editing stories was far less interesting than helping others make sense of their own stories. People gave me more life than mega-church glitz and glamour. This disruption jump-started what would turn out to be a three year tumultuous and rewarding journey to discover my perspective of the future was far too small.
I was led to a group of guys who were also searching for a deeper sense of identity. We looked at the heroes of faith, their calling, and struggles. We learned that often the stories of these men and women had a deep connection to their actual name. For example, Moses was given his name meaning, “one who is drawn out”, because he was literally drawn out of the Nile. If only Pharaoh’s daughter knew that he would be also the one who would draw his people from Egypt and the Wilderness, maybe Pharaoh would have renamed him, “stay put”.
We all want to belong, be known, and have a lasting impact. Thus stories are essential to our being. They make or break us. They fill the gaps at dinner parties. They are the tapestries of memories. We embed them into art forms that often have words, but at times silently form legends that give us meaning. The Bible is a rich and immensely illuminated work that speaks to the most ancient textures of life. Scriptural figurative / literal interpretation debates often ignore the power and complexity of stories to be both. Like belief and reason, the literal and figurative were never meant to be separated because they work together to transform us in a way that we can better know ourselves and the purpose we play in co-crafting our stories.
So there I was experiencing my own flaming bush in a passenger seat riding over a bridge in Clemson, South Carolina.
When I tell the story I compare it to the scene in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail when Jesus comes from the clouds and tells Arthur about his quest.
The clouds open up, He appears, purpose revealed, and the clouds come back. But it wasn’t really anything like that. It is more mystical and unknowable. It was a divine moment as fast as lightning and frozen in time all at once. I heard clear as day something awakening with in me: “I call you my encourager.”
Then it was gone.
I was crafted to be an Encourager. I feel like I can say this because I am sure of its origins. If you know me at all you know that this is what I am made for. Inherent to my nature is to encourage others. It was both literally put there and figuratively transforming every part of my life since I was born without me knowing it. Lawrence The Encourager.
Lawrence is a name that etymologically derives its meaning from laurel leaves which symbolizes leadership akin to the Caesars that wore laurel crowns. Ironically enough my wife’s name, Lauren, is the feminine version with the same meaning. I was named in the line of three other Lawrences who were great men and Caesars in my own life, but I certainly wasn’t named with the intention of bestowing a destiny to steward great leadership.
At one time names meant something, but now I feel like that they are more about uniqueness and honoring those in the past. In some way the latter might be an echo of naming, yet the nuances of living a life from our identity are lost and we are left searching. We look for it in our work or our passions. We can attach our being to our sexuality or race. The world feels meaningless because by in large we construct our own meaning from radical individualism. How can we expect to find purpose if we only peer into ourselves?
Ending my long intro I could have simply said, “Lauren and I believe names mean something and so we named our son Cade.” But I don’t think the story of his name would be as meaningful if we weren’t looking at names in the same way.
When Lauren first thought of the name I didn’t like it. We both feared, which has come true on multiple occasions, that people would hear us say Kate instead of Cade. Regardless how we felt we looked up the meaning of Cade. The name is a Welsh name meaning the Spirit of Battle. Military cadences are the rhythmic songs that are used as fighters prepare for battle. The guts, transcendental dissonance, of cadence is the cade or Spirit of Battle that spurs others to fight.
Obviously, this changed my masculine opinion, but Lauren and I both weren’t sold out until one Sunday morning at Grace Midtown. We were singing a song by All Sons and Daughters called Great is the Lord. The chorus goes like this:
Its your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
Its your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise to you only God.
In my mind I felt and heard that this was the blessing of Cade’s name. I knew that with this name came the prayer and the meaning that Cade’s life would be the Spirit of Battle that finds its origins in the praises of God. As a result Cade’s life would be lived in a way that others may recognize that the breath in their lungs, their very being, would be reason enough to praise God.
That is beginning a life with an invitation into a journey and a challenge to live likewise.
For My Son, The Spirit Of Battle
The Lord is your source of life
In him you will find meaning
Live well in the presence of God
Bring life to others through Christ
There is no mountain too high
Nor is there a sea too deep
Where your Father cannot find you
Or that can separate you from his love
Be bold in the face of battle
Because within you resides
the light of all men
the creator of heaven and earth
May patience and humility be your breastplate
May honor and wisdom be your sword
May grace always open your fists
And may mercy flow from your heart