by Pat Cooper
March 20, 2019
… The sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name…
— John 10:3
One of my favorite artists of the ’70s was a folk/rock singer named Jim Croce. Between August of 1972 and December of 1973, Jim Croce stayed near the top of Billboard’s Top 100 with an endless string of great songs released almost every month. Unfortunately, 30-year-old Croce died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973, just one day before the release of his last album, I Got A Name. To this day, I still enjoy hearing his unique voice sing:
Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I got a name, I got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I got a name, I got a name
— Jim Croce, I Got a Name
Indeed, we each have a name. To those who know me, mine is Pat. To the few who would recognize me only by my driver’s license or other official documents, it’s Patrick. Then too, don’t you remember that feeling of dread when you heard your mother calling out your name — first, middle and last — in that unmistakable tone of voice. Believe me, when the words “Patrick Alan Cooper” would rattle the walls of our small two-bedroom house, instinct said, “Run Pat, run!” But fear of having to later deal with my dad taught me that my better interest would be served standing at attention before the woman whose voice I heard calling my name and just face the music, whatever the song she was about to sing might be.
As I look back, unfortunately and much to my shame, I heard my mom use my full name many, many times. Too many. To speak of myself as a rebellious child would be a most extreme understatement. A wild child, I was, and not to be tamed easily. Honestly, there’s just no other way to say it: I gave my parents hell growing up. I can only be thankful my dad wasn’t an Old Testament scholar. If he had known the Hebrew word translated as “rod” in Proverbs 13:24 (“Whoever spares the rod hates his son…”) referred to a shepherd’s club, you wouldn’t be reading this today, because I’d probably be dead.
Today, though I no longer hear my mother’s voice, I hear another voice as clear as I once heard hers. “Pat,” I hear. It’s the voice of the Good Shepherd. Sometimes he speaks as a concerned father giving correction. Sometimes like my dad offering a bit of advice. Then, at other times, his is the stern voice of rebuke. But at all times it is the voice of love calling out, as it were, to that one lost sheep gone astray. And I feel safe, I feel secure, knowing that he knows my name.
Does he know your name?
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