I'd planned to post on Your Secret Name yesterday, but I ended up working a long day and just didn't have it in me once I finally got a break. So here we are, a day late.
Today I’ll be writing about Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Kary Oberbrunner’s Your Secret Name as part of Marla Taviano’s read-along.
Oberbrunner begins Chapter 5 with the question of “Who am I?” and soon gets to his theme that, “on some level, we’re all imposters” (60). Why is this? Because, not knowing who we really are (i.e., not knowing the Secret Name God has for us), “we all wear a certain set of masks” (60). He goes on to say that “many of us wear our masks far too frequently—and we’ve lost touch with our potential for who God created us to be.” I thought there was a lot of truth in that statement. At some point, if we wear them long enough, the masks cease to feel like masks at all.
Chapter 5 soon becomes confessional, with Oberbrunner writing about how he became a cutter (a person who cuts his own flesh as a form of self-injury)—and, in his words, an imposter, pretending to be everything he wasn’t. And then he switches to the Jacob/Esau story and makes the parallel of how Jacob was also an imposter, pretending to be Esau so he could get Esau’s blessing from their father.
In chapter 6, after writing about the dehumanizing nature of namelessness, Oberbrunner returns to the Jacob/Esau story. Then he moves to Satan’s rebellion against God and subsequent expulsion from heaven, and then to Adam and Eve’s attempt, under Satan’s influence, to unsuccessfully “buy” their Secret Names. Next, he moves back to his own life and his cutting, and how he had something of a breakdown (which was bad) and was able to begin getting help (which was good). Then he goes back to Jacob and Esau, where Rebekah, to save her favorite son’s skin, has Isaac send him away to Paddam Aram.
Honestly, I found chapter 6 a little disjointed. While Oberbrunner’s own story is compelling, the switching around from story to story made this chapter a little hard to follow.
In Chapter 7, Oberbrunner write about three “heartbreaks” he got his senior year of high school:
- He lost his sense of identity when a mugging left him injured and unable to wrestle for the school team. (Wrestling had become kind of an identity for him.)
- He lost his sense of acceptance when a stuttering problem resurfaced at play practice and he dropped out of the school play.
- He lost his sense of independence when his Trek mountain bike was stolen.
Then he goes back to Jacob, who, he writes, was also stripped of his identity, acceptance, and independence. Oberbrunner then tells the story of Jacob’s stairway dream, and how God promises him all the things He will do for him—and how Jacob’s attitude begins to change after that.
For this blog post, I began to write about how I could understand a lot of what Oberbrunner was going through, and began (again) to tell my story of a particularly painful time in my life, back in my late teens and early twenties. But then, three pages in, I realized that, as with my last post (which I deleted), my story isn’t one I want to tell publicly, as it would hurt too many people involved. So all I can say for now is that I could identify with Oberbrunner’s struggles as I read about them, as some of my experiences were similar. And that I admire him for having to courage to share his story publicly.
After writing about Jacob’s dream of the stairway, Oberbrunner writes, “This tends to be the pattern. We get a tiny peek at what could be—the possible—while taking a vacation from what is—the actual.” (90) And later, “Yet for the moment we must be content to simply understand where we are and how far we must travel in order to arrive at our destination.”
That is certainly true, and something I’ve been thinking about lately. I feel like I’ve recently gotten that tiny peek at what could be, and I’m currently in a holding pattern, thinking about how to prepare for the journey.
I also liked this quote:
“God presents our Secret Name in snippets for fear of information overload; the more we envision our new name, the more we want it. The hope is that such a glance, however brief, will inspire us to get on the path of discovering who we were created to be.”
It reminded me of Mark 8:25, which I encountered while doing a word-search on the word restore (since it’s my word for the year). Here’s the whole story:
“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
I always thought it odd that Jesus couldn’t heal the man the first time around, but then I've read that maybe it was necessary that the man get only a glimpse first. Maybe going from utter blindness to full sight would be too much to handle in one step. Maybe a slow transition is necessary. And maybe I just need to sit and wait and be content with glimpses of restoration I’m getting now, knowing that there is more to come.
As he ends Chapter 6, Oberbrunner doesn’t go into detail about how to get on that path, yet; maybe that’s what he does in the next chapter. I’ll be writing my thoughts on Chapters 8 and 9 here next Tuesday. Meanwhile, hop on over to Marla’s blog if you’d like to read others’ thoughts (from yesterday!) on the chapters I've covered today.