For Ezra’s Sake

Dear friends,

Thank you for reading this. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something but wasn’t sure how. You could say that in writing this open letter I’ve taken the coward’s way out. But hopefully I can express myself better this way, which is good because this is really important.

My best friend at school was Rachel (a lot of you know that!). We’re still friends now but inconveniently she lives 214 miles away. But back then, at the Comp, we were inseparable. Her mum was a PE teacher, but not in our school. I expect if she’d worked in our school it would have been hard for Rachel. It’s pretty inevitable that school kids complain about most teachers at some point or another. Few teachers escape unscathed from the cutting remarks of a hormonal adolescent mob. (I know this because I once was a hormonal adolescent, and later I was a teacher.) But if Rachel’s lovely mum (whose name I can’t even mention here, out of respect) had worked in our school, I wouldn’t have insulted her. I wouldn’t have made up a silly name for her, or rolled my eyes when I knew it was time for PE with her, or made fun of her when, for example, she wore something that didn’t match (I’m speaking hypothetically. She always looks fab). I wouldn’t have done that, of course. Why? Well, at the very least out of loyalty for Rachel, and out of respect for her mum. As a friend, the least I can do is not slag off her mum.

Maybe you can’t relate to this. Maybe you don’t like your mum, or maybe your best friend hated her own mum. Maybe you all got together and tore your mums to shreds on a regular basis. So let me try another example. Here are some pictures of my firstborn son, Ezra*.

I love Ezra John Brooks. He is precious to me beyond measure. I love the bones of him. I could eat him. When I listen to him explain something to me, my heart skips a beat. I heard him tell his teacher yesterday, “I’ll bring in my slip for the trip tomorrow,” and my heart swelled with joy. I know, it’s pathetic! What’s happened to me? It’s called motherhood.

So try to imagine for me, if you can, that you and I are together one day, running for a train. Infuriatingly, we just miss the train, arriving just as it pulls away, and you yell down the platform, “EZRA JOHN!”
That would come as quite a shock to me.
Or if you stub your toe and you shout, “Ezra $*!#ing John Brooks that hurt!”
Or maybe you order a glass of white wine and it costs £8. “For Ezra’s sake!” you exclaim.

If we’re together, and I hear you use his name like that, how will I feel? In my head I might think, “Hey, don’t blame him!” But the reaction would first and foremost be emotional. It would be like a knife to the heart, wouldn’t it? Hearing you use my son’s name like a swear word would make me feel like you were dragging my gorgeous boy through the proverbial mud. His name is part of him; they can’t easily be separated.  Now, I know you’d never do that. It would be a pretty weird thing to do! But even if people had, for some terrible reason, started using Ezra’s name in that way, I’m sure you wouldn’t use it. Not in front of me. And actually, out of respect for me I don’t think you’d do it while I wasn’t there either. “That’s my friend’s son” you’d think. “I’ll use a different word.”

Perhaps you don’t have a child of your own. In which case, try to imagine how you’d feel if I used the name of your favourite niece or nephew, or your boyfriend, or your Dad, or anyone you love and cherish. If I used their name when I was angry, or in pain, or sick of waiting, you wouldn’t just object intellectually: you’d be hurt.

Now here’s the really awkward part. If you use The Lord Jesus’ name as a swear word, that’s how it makes me feel. It’s a knife to the heart. He is my most precious thing, my treasure. He is ‘my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.’** He is so precious to me that my identity is wrapped up in him. When you insult him, you insult me (and vice versa). You may think this is crazy or weird, but it’s still true. So I wonder if I could ask you, at least when you’re around me, and even if it’s just for my sake, could you please, please not do that? I’d be so grateful. Some of you don’t do it, so if you’re thinking “I’ve never done that!” then thank you, and I hope you found this worth reading anyway. But I’ve written this more for the people who do use Jesus’ name like that. I love you, and I love spending time with you. I’d also really be so pleased if you could take this on board. Here are some words from one song which helps to put across how I feel about Jesus’ name:

What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You have no rival, you have no equal
Now and forever, our God reigns
Yours is the kingdom, yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.
(Hillsong, What a Beautiful Name)

Lots of love,

Me.

P.S. This isn’t the best reason not to misuse God’s Name, but it’s a valid one.

*I  picked one of my children for the sake of this article, but it could have been any.
**WH Auden, Twelve Songs (IX).

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