If you know any of us on the Salt’n Light Team, you know we are fans of nicknames…perhaps to an absurd degree. There are some people on our staff who easily have 10 nicknames, some of which change on a regular basis simply because we wonder how outlandish we can be. These friendly “titles” can range from anything like calling people by their last name (Murph, Troup, Bing, Irvy, Keeks) to insane and unnecessary plays on words (calling Alex Peffer..Pefferoni and Cheese), combining names of best friends (Dana and Abrahm=Daebrahm) or first and middle names (Alex James, Branthony Keeks, C. Mitch) to ridiculous names that come from inside jokes or that only make sense in the context of a story or shared experience. And because telling these stories will both amuse me and serve the purpose of this post, I would like to share a few with you.
First, we have Jess Geib. Jess, for whatever reason quite possibly has the most nicknames on the team (though Pef might give her a run for her money). I cannot explain this except to say that people somehow take nicknames she already has and combine them with other nicknames she already has to produce new ones. And then the cycle continues endlessly. I believe this began this sumer when Jess played the character of “Devi” in Room 203. I thought Devi was a very cool name, but everyone on the team kept thinking her name was Debi. Thus, she became “Debi” “Lil Debi” “Lil Deb”. One time, though he will deny it, Stephen Gallaher accidentally called her “Jeff” instead of Jess. Thus, she became “Jeff” and sometimes even “Jeffrey”. Jeff got combined with “Deb” to form “Jeb” which then grew into the occasional “Jebidiah” or “Lil Jeb” or “Jebi”. Am I losing you? I hope not. Because Cody said Jess looked exactly like his childhood friend Marnie Melvin…which then added “Marnie” and “Good ole’ Marn” to the list. Additionally, Cody insisted on pronouncing Jess’ last name wrong and referred to her as “Lil GEEB” or “Geeby”. As if this wasn’t enough, Stephen decided to pull Jess up at the Battleball Rally and give the audience a multiple choice guess at her nickname..the choices included the name “Sweetie Pie”, which was quickly added. This puts Jess at a total of around 14 nicknames.
I’ll spare you such lengthy discussions around others but here’s a few more quick ones. One time, Cody took a photo of Bekah and Pef, but the way Pef was sitting made it look like he had no leg and that his arm was his leg. This, combined with an accidental autocorrect on Bing’s phone that changed “Pef’ to “Peg”…created the nickname “Arm leg peg”. When Stephen Scovell joined or staff, we knew it wouldn’t do to have two Stephen’s on the team. We endeavored to call him “Abe” because of his beard. During a band practice that summer, Abe disappeared and Andy said very matter of factly into the microphone, “Where’s Abrahm?”. And that was that. Since, it has grown to “Abraham” “The Good Father”,”The Faithful one”, and the occasional “Dae-Brahm.” A few summers ago, Keeks, Brynn and I started making fun of Sheetz and how everything on their menu has to start with SH…which changed our names to Shmeeks, Shmynn, and Shmistie. Ironically enough, the nicknames kind of died that summer, until Cody decided to start calling me Shmist again a summer later. The jokes of Chelsea acting like an older woman led Brook and Andy to relentlessly call her anything sounding remotely grandmotherly. Mammy, Mee-maw, Mammers, Mam, Mumsy…eventually leading to the ever popular creation of moomers or “mooms” for short. Andy (who oddly enough creates more nicknames than I think we give him credit for) once decided on a whim to refer to CB as “Ceebs”…and it stuck right away.
So why am I telling you about all of these nicknames? Well one, because it’s fun to trace the etymology of these names and how we ended up with them in the first place. But two, because there’s something really special about a nickname right? If you’ve ever watched Marcel the Shell with shoes on, he says it well.
“Guess what I want but I’m not gonna beg for it?”
“A nickname. Because you can’t – you can’t make it for yourself like you can make yourself a new hair style. You can’t say well now I go by the name of “the General” or whatever…”
A nickname is special because…you can’t make it for yourself: it’s given to you. It’s given from someone in your life with whom you have a relationship; usually, a relationship you and the other person spend time investing in. A nickname comes from KNOWING someone, sharing adventures with them, walking with them.
I started thinking about all of these nicknames and how many of them don’t make sense outside of the relationships and stories that formed them. I mean, if I just called Pef “Arm-leg peg” for no reason, he would probably be kinda freaked out. Or if Leeann started calling Jess “Jeff” or Andy shouted “Jebidiah” at one of her volleyball games…she might be outright offended. But since we’ve spent so much time loving each other, knowing each other, and sharing our lives together, the names rose up naturally out of our experience. They mean something more BECAUSE of the relationship.
And when your friend calls you by your nickname, you feel loved, because that name comes from a place that only the two or three or five of you share together.
This morning, I was reading in Mark 3 where Jesus calls his 12 disciples. These are the people that would become his closest companions. And it reads, “James and John, the sons of Zebedee…who Jesus nicknamed, ‘The sons of Thunder.’” That line made me smile and chuckle to myself.
Jesus gave his friends nicknames.
I started thinking of Jesus and these guys walking down the road, maybe giving each other a hard time, laughing about something silly Peter said, or because Barthlomew tripped a ways back. I started wondering what James and John did to earn that nickname. Now, I mean, since it was Jesus, it likely meant something really profound and prophetic, but I guess there’s a part of me that hoped part of it came from an inside joke, or a characteritic Jesus noticed about the two of them. Maybe the way James and John bickered in the morning, or because they loved thunderstorms, or because one day while cooking breakfast they decided to make an impromotu attempt at stomp. I know that might sound really silly, but the thought of Jesus giving a nickname made my heart warm inside.
I realized how often I see Jesus as a mentor, a leader, a savior, a king…but forget that he’s my friend. And that if he walked into a Salt ‘n Light practice where we were laughing and being absolutely ridiculous, he would join right in. And how I want to be his friend and spend enough time with him that he might have a nickname for me. That he might have a special name for me that comes out of the time we’ve spent together, the roads we’ve walked together, from the random and silly things he’s seen me do.
I want the kind of affectionate familiarity with Jesus that I have with all of my friends. In fact, I want him closer than that. Maybe to the point that he could give me a nickname that only makes sense to him and me, because he knows me better than anyone else, and we know us better than anyone else.
At our Easter service, we sang this simple chorus. And even though the grammar of it is strange, I found myself completely in love with its simplicity. I hope you know today that you are loved in that affectionate and familiar way, by a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He’s the best one you could ever have. The big JC’s in the house.
“My beloved mine, I his.
My beloved mine, I his.
My beloved mine, I his.”